ARPA Explained: A Recap of MACo’s 2021 Fall Symposium

On Wednesday, September 29, MACo held its 2021 Fall Symposium at the Blue Heron Center in Annapolis’s Quiet Waters Park.

Numerous county leaders, including several elected officials and local budget officers, traveled from across Maryland to discuss the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) with state officials and nonprofit representatives, as well as one another. The Rural Maryland Council also presented on the expansion of broadband in rural communities.

The event was moderated by Chris Trumbauer, former Anne Arundel County Council Member and current Anne Arundel Budget Officer, who briefly discussed his own jurisdiction’s difficulties managing ARPA funds. Following his remarks, Mr. Trumbauer introduced the day’s first speakers, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Budget and Management (DBM) David Brinkley and Deputy Secretary Marc Nicole.

Secretary Brinkley and Deputy Secretary Nicole provided some insights into their interactions with federal officials and guidance they have received regarding the distribution of ARPA funds. Notably, Secretary Brinkley said ARPA funds carry significantly more restrictions on expenditures than the previous year’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, resulting in greater state buildout focused on the distribution of funds.

In a small reprieve from ARPA discussions, the Director of the Rural Maryland Council, Charlotte Davis, provided an in-depth discussion on the current state of affairs of expanding broadband connectivity in rural communities. She highlighted many of the funding and land use barriers stalling many projects across the state, and provided some potential solutions for attendees.

To conclude the presentation portion of the symposium, several nonprofit representatives discussed on how local governments can best partner with their sector in service of unmet ARPA-related needs, including:

  • Neil Bergsman, Senior Policy Analyst, Maryland Nonprofits
  • Maggie Gunther Osborn, President and CEO, Maryland Philanthropy Network
  • HySook Chung, President, Baltimore Civic Fund
  • Susan Petroff, Senior Executive Director for Programs and Advocacy, Charles County Charitable Trust

In an open discussion among attendees, many pressing issues facing local governments came to light. Conversations included messaging around eviction prevention assistance, consultant firms with expertise on ARPA funding restrictions, and the best uses of ARPA dollars.

Previous Conduit Street ARPA Coverage

Treasury Releases ARPA Reporting Requirements

State Releases ARPA Recovery Plan Performance Report

ARPA: US Treasury’s Six-Month Progress Report

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