Second Round of American Rescue Plan Dollars Heads to Arkansas
Friday, June 3, 2022
Arkansas is poised to receive its second round of American Rescue Plan funds, more than $786 million, to help residents still facing the pandemic's challenges. Advocates are urging officials to use the money to help advance economic and racial justice.
Last month, Arkansas declined most of the $146 million for a second round of federal Emergency Rental Assistance. Gov. Asa Hutchinson cited a strong economy and job market as reasons for rejecting the funds.
Bruno Showers, senior policy analyst at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, countered the influx of Rescue Plan dollars could help people struggling with rising housing costs.
"Evictions are continuing in Arkansas and people are really feeling the hurt there," Showers observed. "I think that we could use some of this money to directly address those needs by increasing housing assistance, rental assistance, but also increasing the amount of affordable housing that we have."
Showers added states like Arizona and Massachusetts could serve as models for using American Rescue Plan funds for housing services. Arkansas has until the end of 2024 to declare specific uses for the money, and until the end of 2026 to spend it.
Arkansas previously sought community input on how to use the first round of funding through the state's American Rescue Plan Steering Committee website. Showers said going forward, he thinks the state would get more responses by meeting people where they are.
"It would work better to get real community input if they went out into the community, posted notices about this," Showers suggested. "In county offices or other places where people interact with their local and state government; and held meetings for public input."
He added childhood poverty is another priority which could use an influx of federal dollars. In 2019, 22% of children in Arkansas were living in poverty, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
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