Guide to Local Recovery Update: Oct. 19 – League of California Cities

The U.S. Department of Treasury has scaled down its contact center for State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds recipients. City officials can sign a letter urging their representatives to reauthorize the program in the next funding bill. Additionally, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the COVID-19 state of emergency will end in February. Also, several new recovery resources are available for cities, including one related to digital equity.
The U.S. Department of Treasury has dramatically scaled back its contact center for State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds recipients. The program was established as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. Until Oct. 17, the Treasury Department was able to answer complex questions about the program’s requirements via phone or email.
For the foreseeable future, the Treasury Department will not be able to answer phone calls and email response times will be significantly delayed. The Treasury Department has the funding to resume support but needs authority from Congress to reallocate administrative funds from other relief-era programs.
However, there is a specific legislative fix for this problem. Late last year, the U.S. Senate passed the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act (S. 3011) by unanimous consent. The bill would provide the Treasury Department the flexibility needed to shift funds and staff up the help centers.
The U.S. House of Representatives introduced a companion bill, H.R. 5735, which has 160 bipartisan co-sponsors. City officials can help by signing a letter urging their representatives to include H.R. 5735 in the next passed funding bill.
In the interim, a list of frequently asked questions can be found by clicking on the self-service resources button towards the top of the program’s webpage. Additionally, the next annual report filing deadline for almost all non-entitlement units of local governments is April 2023. This gives policymakers a few months to pass a solution since the filing deadline is when many cities need additional guidance or assistance.
Gov. Gavin Newsom will end the pandemic state of emergency on Feb. 28, 2023. Many of the key restrictions ended in 2021 and earlier this year. According to the Governor’s Office, the four-month winddown will give the health care system and local agencies the flexibility needed to deal with any potential post-holiday surges. The Governor is also asking the Legislature to pass laws that codify some health care provisions.
The state will continue to rely on the SMARTER Plan to protect people from COVID-19. Each letter stands for a foundational component of the plan: shots, masks, awareness, readiness, testing, education, and Rx. The plan includes preventive measures, like stockpiling masks and tests, as well as reactive measures.
For questions about the impact of this announcement to local agencies, including public meetings, please contact your city attorney.
The National League of Cities (NLC) is hosting a webinar on how cities can increase computer literacy and access among residents. Most cities have focused on building affordable broadband infrastructure. However, many residents lack the knowledge or devices needed to navigate the internet. The Oct. 19 webinar will provide an opportunity to hear directly from cities leading the charge, including the city and county of San Francisco.
The webinar is part of NLC’s Digital Equity webinar series, which launched shortly after the Digital Equity Playbook was released. Previous webinars — available to watch on-demand — include information about broadband infrastructure financing, middle-mile infrastructure, community engagement, and more.
Additionally, Mariia Zimmerman, an official for the US. Department of Transportation, wrote an overview of the department’s online resource portal for NLC. The online portal connects city officials with resources and primers related to the federal infrastructure package. Many of the resources are available in Spanish.
The article also highlighted the Thriving Communities Program, a technical assistance program for disadvantaged communities. Interested applicants must identify community partners and submit a letter of interest by Dec. 6, 2022, to be considered for selection.
The Local Infrastructure Hub is holding an Oct. 25 webinar on the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) grant program. Funded by the federal infrastructure bill, the SMART grant program will help cities leverage technology to improve transportation efficiency and safety. The webinar will focus on how cities can develop competitive applications and includes opportunities to speak directly with policy experts.
The Transportation Department’s website also includes several use cases that could be eligible for SMART grants. Part of the funding will be directed specifically to rural and mid-sized communities. Two or more eligible entities can apply through a single lead applicant or as individual applicants. The deadline to apply is Nov. 18 at 5:00 p.m. EST.
City officials looking for additional information about the American Rescue Plan Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or additional recovery tools can visit the Cal Cities Guide to Local Recovery portal.
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