Maximizing ARPA: One Year to Commit $207.5M to Vital Projects

As Boston approaches its first deadline in administering the $558.7M in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, overall progress remains on track. However, data as of September 2023 indicate that certain projects have yet to commit[1] substantial portions of their budgets. While the City has until the end of 2026 to spend these funds, the deadline to commit the remaining $207.5M (37.1%) is December 31, 2024—merely a year away. With the deadline on the horizon, the Research Bureau urges Boston to plan carefully and shift funds where necessary so all ARPA funding is committed to vital projects by the deadline.

Evaluation, Progress, & Decisions RequiredSome ARPA projects have made slow spending progress, but about half have already committed their full allocation, keeping the City narrowly ahead of pace to commit all funds by the deadline. Areas with the most funding to commit are housing ($128.8M), economic opportunity and inclusion ($24.9M), and climate and mobility ($24.5M). An affordable homeownership project has $38.0M to commit over the next year, and a project to build deeply affordable multi-family housing has committed none of its $29.9M appropriation, both of which reflect the complex timelines required in developing housing. A pilot program offering relief to small businesses that were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic has yet to commit $8.1M of its $9.0M allocation. Two projects focused on expanding bike routes and walkability in the City have each committed less than 1.0% of their $8.0M budgets.

The City has moved funding between projects only a few times. Earlier this year, the City, in coordination with the Boston Public Health Commission, shifted $5.2M from predominantly COVID-related projects that no longer needed their full allocations. The funding went to projects focused on housing, behavioral health, and substance use services. Over the next year, the City should continue to evaluate progress to ensure all projects commit their full allocation by the deadline, and shift funds if that will not occur. If funds are not committed efficiently, the City risks losing the opportunity to use them.

[1] In this report, commit means to contract funds through procurements and purchase orders, and allocate means to make funds available for spending.

Click here for a PDF of this Research Update

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