Since President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March of 2021, Wisconsin has been given between $2.5 and $3 billion in public funding, and government institutions are busy determining how to spend said funds.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury, in the words of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM), is “responsible for distributing the funding” and “developing methods and guidance for the allocation and oversight process.” Local legislatures then allocate funds from the state budget to services, programs, and industries.
Governor Tony Evers has signed the 2021-2023 budget and has already allocated $15 million in ARPA funds towards modernizing Wisconsin’s meat infrastructure and recruitment in related meat processing industries.
Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS) has been given access to approximately $397 million in ARPA funding, which the DHS states will be used “to improve the health of Wisconsinites, including for mental health and substance use disorders, as well as home and community-based services (HCBS).”
Over $50 million will be invested into community-level supports for people who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues while $350 million will help elderly or disabled state residents receive much-needed services, such as grant opportunities, tribal long-term care enhancements, Medicaid services, and modernized Aging and Disability Resource Centers, among other resources.
According to UWM, analysts of the ARPA note that eligible uses also include “revenue replacement” for the “reduction in revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.” This includes expenditures like “assistance to small businesses, households, hard-hit industries, and economic recovery,” premium pay for essential workers, and “investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.”
Since the ARPA’s signing, local governments and Wisconsin residents have been convening to discuss how these funds should be used.
For example, Wasau received $15 million in ARPA funds, and the city has been deliberating on how to allocate them since last year. Five projects were approved in an April 12th meeting, which include broadband expansion, courthouse improvements and involvement in the Community Partners Campus. A fraction of the funds has already gone to treating toxicants in the local groundwater.
Last year, the city held public hearings, and community members voiced their concern for important issues that needed addressing. In the words of Wausau Finance Director Maryanne Groat, “They were mainly related to low-income housing projects” and “affordable housing projects.”
The Affordable Housing Task Force met recently to discuss recommendations that will address the shortage of affordable housing in Wausau. “Housing in Marathon County is not affordable, based on the cost of living here and the livable wages,” said Ben Lee, member of the Affordable Housing Task Force. “The goal is to create long-lasting impact in our community.”
ARPA funds will help improve the lives of Wisconsin residents by financing essential public services like housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and infrastructure repair, services upon which people across the state depend.