New Orleans marks 2-year anniversary of American Rescue Plan Act and its impact on COVID-19 pandemic recovery

Special to The Banner-News

The City of New Orleans today marked the second anniversary of the signing of President Joseph Biden's American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that delivered critical relief to help cities recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, Mayor LaToya Cantrell fought tirelessly for a direct allocation of ARPA dollars to the City of New Orleans. She traveled to Washington D.C. and personally met with members of the Biden Administration to lobby for a better, real-time use of funds, which became a game changer in how federal funding would flow to American cities. As a result, the City received a total of $388 million through two separate allocations; $188.6 million of the first tranche replaced the City's revenue gap due to the impact of the pandemic, and the remaining $6.5 million was allocated by the New Orleans City Council for projects related to broadband and utility aid. The second tranche of $194 million will be allocated to projects that will support and improve public safety, public health and the quality of life and development of communities in all areas of the city – some of which have already received the funding.

"I am grateful to the Biden Administration and the United States Congress for allocating federal dollars that have been vital in getting our city back on track after experiencing detrimental economic losses from the pandemic," said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. "These funds provided much-needed revenue to enhance public safety and public health programs, upgrade technology, provide workforce development opportunities and replenish our fund gap that we expect will not reach pre-pandemic levels until 2025. COVID-19 devastated cities across this nation, and residents and business owners are still feeling the impacts. This critical stimulus bill has provided an opportunity to deliver on projects that have and will continue to tremendously benefit our city and this entire nation."

President Biden signed the ARPA stimulus bill into law on March 11, 2021, sending $1.9 trillion of relief and support to respond to the public health emergency and its economic impact, support essential workers, boost government services that may have lost revenue and for infrastructure investments.

Mayor Cantrell hosted two ARPA town halls, among other community engagement meetings, to hear directly from residents on how the funds should be utilized, which displayed the administration's long valued commitment to transparency and public input. The City is currently developing extensive, interactive public-facing dashboards that include budget and expenditure overviews, key project milestones and detailed implementation data about the ARPA-funded projects.

The pandemic significantly reduced sales tax revenues, making it necessary to allocate the first funding received to revenue replacement to restore services and support budget balances for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 through FY2024. Now that the City's financials have been stabilized using the first tranche of ARPA dollars, the second tranche will be used to fund various projects to benefit residents, focused mainly on public safety and public health.

This includes over $5 million for public health programs that will support vulnerable and unhoused populations, as well as $4 million for the recently reopened Sobering Center. ARPA will also help fund the New Orleans Health Department (NOHD) gun safety campaign, which includes the purchasing and distribution of biometric gun locks. The funding was also used to purchase new Emergency Medical Services (EMS) vehicles and ambulances at a cost of $4.4 million to expand the City's emergency fleet, boosting first responders' readiness and lowering response times.

The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has also benefited from the ARPA dollars, which funded Mayor Cantrell's transformative $32.5 million recruitment and retention package that has already slowed officer attrition rate. An additional $3 million has been allocated to NOPD's new Crime Lab, Training Academy and the Central Evidence and Property Division. The Office of Criminal Justice Coordination (OCJC) received over $5 million, which will be allocated to probation, parole, diversion and conflict resolution programs for at-risk youth; Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) New Orleans; Covenant House and Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response, as well as nonprofits working with justice system impacted individuals.

For more information about how the City is utilizing ARPA funds, visit the Department of Finance's website financial-reports.

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