Leveraging Federal American Rescue Plan Funds for Downtown Development
December 1, 2021 | Keith Winge
The money allocated to communities by the federal and state government, to be distributed in 2021 and 2022, has city officials and many others asking how this money can best be used to support businesses and help Main Street programs revitalize downtown. With all this money available to be used, Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) has been watching and learning from other coordinating programs and local Main Street programs on how city officials can support their Main Street programs or downtown using the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds as well as how Main Street programs can request funds from both the city and county for applicable projects.
The ARPA funding was passed in 2021 and distributes money to counties and municipalities that can be used to assist Main Streets and business districts recover. There are areas of the act that allow for direct support to businesses that have suffered from the effects of the pandemic through loans, grants, or technical services. Local Main Street programs have a network and presence on the street to be able to help identify what technical services are needed for downtown and its businesses that will provide the targeted assistance needed to promote long-term success, which is the goal of the ARPA. MMSC’s staff are available to help local programs further identify areas of need and a palette of services that could be utilized to meet that need. Along with staff, MMSC has a network of specialist and consultants in various specialties to assist utilizing the Main Street ApproachTM to cover all of the quality-of-life aspects of a comprehensive strategy. You can find some of those services in our Service Directory.
The other aspect of the ARPA funding is directed to nonprofits who are eligible for pass-through funding to build capacity for downtown revitalization. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Main Street programs are eligible to request these funds to build the capacity of the organization that directly relate to its ability and capacity to support downtown businesses through the Main Street Approach™. The best way for a Main Street program to approach the city or county is to develop a well thought out plan demonstrating the need and then proposing action items to address that need. This plan should be an updated and current comprehensive plan with identified goals and actionable items strategically addressing downtown’s needs considering the district market mix and more. Communities are in different stages across that state and may need help to establish and forecast goals for the next one to three years or develop Transformation Strategies that will direct the work of the Main Street program for the next two to five years. MMSC can provide an outside perspective, grounded in the Main Street Approach™, that guides the process and discussion on establishing the focused approach to bring together the board and committees. There are two technical service grant options from MMSC to help with this planning process which leverage the resources of Main Street. One is the People Energizing Places (PEP) Grant, a 2-year grant that can be used for the planning process and request to the city or county as well as to help with the implementation process. The other is the Strategic Teams Engaging People (STEP) Grant, a 1-year grant that can be used for the planning process and request to the city or county. These two technical service grants are matching grants with the local program/city contributing 25% of the dollars for the services and MMSC contributing the other 75%. More information on both of these grant opportunities can be found here.
Do not miss your opportunity to leverage the dollars from the federal and state government to invest in the long-term success of your downtown district. Successful communities are distinctive communities. Our downtowns make each of us distinct from our neighbors down the road. It is time to invest in our downtown not only for the current generation but also future generations.