As States Distribute Funds, More Relief Needed for Communities

As of early July, over 40 state legislatures adjourned officially and enacted their Fiscal Year 2021 budgets, entering a time where preparation begins for the next legislative sessions. This year, however, leaves state elected officials facing immediate, pressing issues before thinking about next year.

Communities are facing public health and fiscal crises because of the pandemic and there are challenges ahead to sustain an equitable recovery.

Part of the work of state elected officials during this time entails the distribution of federal stimulus funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Passed by Congress and signed into law in March, the CARES Act sought to provide immediate relief to state and local governments in need of support at the onset of the crisis.

If you need a refresher, APA breaks down the CARES Act.

State Distribution to Local Communities

The National Conference of State Legislatures outlines how states are overseeing the distribution of federal stimulus funds. Just as responses by state executive branches and legislatures on issues like reopening are varied, so are the strategies for distribution of CARES Act funds to local communities.

In some states, legislative action is facilitating the process, while in others actions by the executive branch have been the primary focus. With such a range of approaches, it is clearer in some states than others how communities can access the funds.

For example, in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey announced the AZCares Fund that made funds from the CARES Act available to localities with populations of fewer than 500,000. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington announced that the state would award $300 million of the state's CARES Act funds to communities that did not receive a direct allocation from the federal government.

States like Illinois, Hawaii, Ohio, and Mississippi are among those where legislative action regarding distribution was taken to provide further guidance.

Advocate for Relief for Local Communities

It is critical that states proceed with distribution plans that are both equitable and efficient to aid communities. Simultaneously, advocacy for the federal government to provide additional, flexible funding to state and local governments as part of COVID-19 relief efforts remains critical.

As planners, your voice from the perspective of communities on the ground is important.

State oversight and distribution of existing funds will continue, but we know that is just the beginning of relief needed to ensure the continuity of essential services and a recovery that centers our most vulnerable communities.


Delve into NCSL's resources for more insights on CARES distribution from states to localities.

Top image: Supportive signs at Harding Middle School in Des Moines, Iowa, where free meals and workbooks were provided to students as schools closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Flickr user Phil Roeder (CC BY-ND 2.0).

About the Author
Catherine Hinshaw is APA's senior state government affairs associate.

July 9, 2020