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Posted Thursday, May 6, 2021 by Rupam Chokshi

Can County Human Services Agencies Use Funds from the American Rescue Plan for Technology?

The answer is: no, the U.S. Treasury’s Quick Reference Guide does not list technology modernization as an allowable use of funds. But, neither does it list technology modernization as an ineligible use of funds. Since recipients have broad flexibility to determine how to best use this funding to meet the needs of their communities, it may help free up other resources for technology instead. Here’s how.

The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund established under the American Rescue Plan Act provides $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including the public health and economic impacts.

This amount includes $65.1 billion in direct aid to counties.

Similar to when the Coronavirus Relief Fund was established under the CARES Act, county human services agencies have questions about how money from the Recovery Fund can be properly spent. However, unlike the CARES Act, official guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury does not indicate that technology modernization is an allowable use of funds.

Even though your agency can’t directly leverage the Recovery Fund for technology, it can still play a role in how an IT project ultimately gets funded. We’ve rounded up some resources to help guide you through the process.

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American Rescue Plan Act: Coronavirus State & Local Fiscal Recovery Fund Resources

The Treasury’s Quick Reference Guide is a good place to start for an overview of the Recovery Fund, its objectives, and example uses of funds.

The National Association of Counties (NACo) has been working with the Treasury to provide comprehensive guidance on the successful implementation and execution of the Recovery Fund. Their “State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Funds Resource Hub” provides key information your agency should know, such as:

  • A breakdown of all funding made available through ARPA
  • Official allocations that each county will receive through the Recovery Fund
  • Links to full guidance and FAQs from the U.S. Treasury
  • A presentation for NACo members summarizing key information from the full guidance
  • How to register on U.S. Treasury’s portal and request Recovery Funds

NACo will also host a webinar, “Breaking Down ARPA: Understanding the Funding Available to Your County,” on June 4 at 2 p.m. ET that will introduce a new interactive tool that aims to help counties assess potential funding streams established by ARPA so they can better utilize their direct allocation.

Here are some additional resources that are specific to human services (but not at the county level):

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Is There an Opportunity for Human Services Agencies to Modernize Technology?

Even though technology modernization―specifically as it relates to things like telework/remote work, electronic document management, and virtually engaging clients―is not directly covered under ARPA, this new funding stream can still potentially help your agency. Since recipients have been given such broad flexibility in how they can use this influx of aid, that means other funding streams, such as remaining Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars, could go toward your technology initiatives instead.

As you think about how technology lends itself to recovery and moving forward, consider things like:

  • Cloud-based software that’s safe, secure, and purpose-built for human services
  • Collecting, viewing, and sharing case content from anywhere
  • Completing forms optimized for electronic devices to help clients quickly access services or benefits from anywhere
  • Supporting remote work and remote supervision
  • Eliminating redundant work and automating processes, allowing caseworkers to focus on more high-value work
  • Increasing visibility, while improving caseworker collaboration and morale
  • Reducing administrative burden on IT

Our resources for Leveraging Emergency Funding for Human Services Technology may be helpful as you think through what solutions and technology tools are out there to meet your agency’s exact needs, what’s at stake if you don’t act now, what other emergency funding streams are still available, and how to justify your request amid other competing priorities.

GovTech summarizes the opportunity in its article, “Technology Funds Are Flowing: Is Government IT Ready?

"The push to remote work along with enhanced digital services
provide the framework for the future of government. The dollars
should be used to bolster what you have, modernize what you need,
and kickstart new and different approaches to citizen services."

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Rupam Chokshi, Director of Product Marketing Rupam Chokshi believes that technology should always be rooted in solving problems. It is through this lens that Rupam approaches his role as director of market research, where he oversees market analysis and segmentation, product positioning and strategy, messaging and persona development, and competitive intelligence. Rupam takes pride in helping build solutions that solve HHS workers’ most critical problems and empower them to focus on the most important aspect of their jobs—their clients.

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