New York, N.Y.— On September 8, 2022, a diverse coalition of political advocacy and membership-based organizations released Lead Together, a new website and hub for community organizers securing American Rescue Plan funds for those who need it most.
The site serves as a national clearinghouse for state, local, and tribal governments and community-based organizations seeking to advance equity and co-governance through State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) of the American Rescue Plan in communities most impacted by long-standing inequities, exacerbated by the pandemic.
The coalition, including the Center for Popular Democracy, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Community Change, Economic Policy Institute, Hester Street, Local Progress, People’s Action, and State Revenue Alliance, has built a website to support ongoing work by government leaders, policymakers, community organizers and organizations, advocacy groups, and civic leaders in pursuing unique opportunities created by SLFRF to invest in long-term needs such as housing and childcare.
More than $2.2 billion in federal stimulus money is to be disbursed by state and local authorities through the American Rescue Plan. This will be followed by an additional $550 billion in investments through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and $437 billion through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
People’s Action member groups, including the New Jersey Organizing Project, Pennsylvania Stands Up (PASU), Community Voices Heard and PUSH Buffalo in New York, Take Action Minnesota (TAMN), Hoosier Action, Communities United for Action (CUFA) in Ohio, Citizen Action Wisconsin, the Hometown Action Organizing Project in Alabama, Connecticut Citizen Action Group and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI), are among the many groups taking action nationwide to ensure these funds reach those who need them most.
“The American Rescue Plan is making a real difference in people’s lives and communities,” said Ann Pratt, Senior Strategist for People’s Action. “People’s Action member organizations are continuing their work to make sure local, state and federal decision-makers are held accountable to investing these funds into programs that matter.”
Pennsylvania Stands Up recently helped win $125 million in ARP funds for low and middle-income households through the Whole Home Repairs Act, which was drafted and sponsored by State Senator Nikil Saval, a co-founder of PASU’s Philadelphia member organization, Reclaim Philadelphia.
“It’s a one-stop shop for home repairs and weatherization while building out our workforce and creating new family-sustaining jobs in a growing field,” Saval said. “It’s the first bill of its kind in the nation, making it so that Pennsylvanians can stay warm, safe, and dry in homes they can afford.”
In St. Louis, Missouri Jobs With Justice has spearheaded a campaign to deliver cash assistance directly to over 9,000 families who were hard-hit by COVID. At a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor Tishaura Jones praised the organizers’ efforts.
“In partnership with Missouri Jobs With Justice, the city reached out to participants to find out how they used these funds,” said Jones. “Residents shared stories about being finally able to fix their glasses, another was able to afford health insurance. Countless said it helped them buy clothes and food, and it helped residents move from part-time to full-time employment.”
Time and again, community organizers have named transparency as a barrier to putting stimulus funds to their best use. So this coalition created a website to act as a centralized clearinghouse for resources, clear and accessible information about the SLFRF program and how it can be used, and tools for local groups to determine how much funding is available in their communities.
Seeking to support a growing movement around SLFRF funding opportunities, the Lead Together website features case studies and best practices from communities that have successfully leveraged American Rescue Plan funds to garner significant investments that not only support pandemic recovery but also address historic inequities.
According to Yolanda Roth, Strategic Partnership Director with Take Action Minnesota, “This new resource is a boost to organizations like ours who advocate and organize for more equitable and transparent investment of American Rescue Plan funds. In Minnesota, we’ve already seen the impact of local ARPA funds to invest in Black maternal health, provide financial stimulus for frontline workers including undocumented persons, and invest in Native American community organizations providing life sustaining services like food, shelter and job training.”
“Local elected officials across the country are working diligently to ensure that American Rescue Plan funds are invested to meet the urgent needs of communities most impacted by the pandemic. This new resource will support the movement of local leaders working to ensure that these once-in-a-lifetime funds are invested in community needs and center equity in long-term recovery plans,” said LiJia Gong, Local Progress Policy and Legal Director.
“The investments from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan provide some of the best chances our community partners have had in decades to fund the social programs they need to thrive. We’re so excited to launch a hub for these organizers to come together with other advocates and local elected officials to share lessons, and strategize about how to win on more policies that will make the economy work for everyone, not just the super rich,” said Community Change Co-President Dorian Warren.
“With the launch of this new website, Hester Street is proud to work alongside our coalition partners to increase transparency by making data and public policy more accessible, and create a vital hub for local communities seeking to invest American Rescue Plan funds equitably and strategically,” Rasmia Kirmani, Hester Street, said of the project.
The website, which was developed by Hester Street with design support from the Youth Design Center in Brooklyn, NY, launches on September 8, 2022, with additional resources and case studies added as local communities continue to leverage SLFRF funds.
Contact: Derrick Crowe, [email protected]