When Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), they formulated most of the text to be as flexible as possible, so as to provide local authorities with plenty of leeway to fund local projects they felt would most benefit the community.
Many recipients are turning to major infrastructure programs, such as broadband, water, and cybersecurity. But State and local governments shouldn’t ignore more creative uses for the funding, such as funding art-related initiatives.
The text of ARPA specifically states the funds should be used to help small businesses and reinvigorate sectors of the community that have been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Sponsoring local art vendors would fall well within this purview. By funding art focused projects, State and local governments can stimulate critical areas of economic interest, and help local communities recover the interest of tourists after Covid-19 drove them off.
The art and cultural sectors is an almost $900 billion strong industry and supports over 5 million jobs. By partnering with this industry, State and local governments are making an investment in future growth and encouraging a greater economic recovery. Studies show that art and cultural tourists often stay at locations longer and also spend more.
Furthermore, the arts can even be a component of a public health strategy in fighting Covid-19. Vaccination rates in your municipality low? Fund a catchy PSA video or interactive Tik Tok that raises awareness and provides jobs.
Lastly, the funds can be used to provide for educational after school programs as well as initiatives that improve mental health. As for what type of program State and local governments would like to pursue for this goal, the limits of what is allowable is pretty much the limit of how creative you can be. State and local governments can get as creative as they want, as long as they stay true to the central goals of ARPA and focus on underserved communities and can demonstrate how their programs will improve mental and social wellbeing.