The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was a major piece of legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in March 2021 intended to provide support for families, businesses, and governments to help address the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The $1.9 trillion bill was passed through the budget reconciliation process with support only from Democratic members of Congress. Among the bill’s key provisions for individuals were direct payments of $1,400 per person to most U.S. residents; expansion of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit; extended unemployment insurance benefits; expansion of health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act; increased SNAP (food stamp) benefits, and assistance to struggling renters and homeowners. Many of the social program expansions expired at the end of 2021.
The bill also provided some $350 billion to state, local, and tribal governments. Of this total, the Oklahoma state government was slated to receive $1.87 billion and $1.32 billion was to go to cities, counties, and local communities. The Oklahoma Legislature formed the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding to help determine how state funds would be allocated from out of the nearly $18 billion of funding that was requested. In May 2022, the Legislature called a Special Session to enact an ARPA spending plan. By the first quarter of 2023, the Legislature had appropriated just under $1.7 billion to over 59 projects, with the largest expenditure being $382 million allocated for broadband investments, the smallest being $250,000 for Tulsa’s Fab Lab, and the median being $14 million. Of the $1.7 billion that had been appropriated, less than $10 million had been spent by the first quarter of 2023. States are required to have all available ARPA funds obligated by December 2024 and spent by December 2026.
Nationally, Native American tribes were to receive more than $31 billion in ARPA funds, of which $20 billion was intended to focus on combating COVID-19 and stabilizing safety nets in tribal communities. Most of the remaining funds are to be allocated to tribes by formula.
In addition, the Oklahoma State Department of Education received $1.4 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.