Prioritizing to make the most of your funding


Authors: Rebekka Hosken, Manager (Email) and Mark Olson, Senior Manager (Email)

You know the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding is coming soon, and you have a sense of what’s available, but your city council has big ideas and so does your staff. For some cities and public water utilities COVID-19 has devastated budgets and revenue holes need to be filled. For other communities the impacts of COVID-19 were not that severe, and the funding presents a windfall opportunity. Regardless of your situation, pushing pause and using a process to help you prioritize so you can set your organization up to thrive.

The pandemic has changed how many governments and utilities provide services. Our team can work with your finance personnel, department directors, and grant managers to clarify the impact of the pandemic on your organization, and create an inventory to show where the pandemic has negatively impacted resources, programs, and the community. Raftelis’ assessment experts work with local governments and utilities to define potential investment needs, both in terms of backfilling losses due to the pandemic and building for the future. And we will analyze these needs against the organization’s strategic goals and future plans.

In many communities, there will be strong opinions and competing demands on how these one-time monies should be spent. Having a third-party develop a process to ensure that stakeholders can be heard before decisions are made can help lessen the impact of politics and loud voices. Our professional facilitators can engage with community stakeholders and lead engagement opportunities to identify and prioritize community funding needs, summarize workshop results, and provide a prioritized list of community wants and needs to guide your prioritization efforts going forward. One approach we’ve used involves a survey effort with stakeholders or the general public to solicit feedback on issues of concern. This can involve a wide range of participants on selected issues or questions.

A second approach we use focuses on soliciting feedback through a facilitated group process. Our team identifies and recruits desired stakeholders to participate in the facilitated group meeting where we work with the participants to identify and prioritize issues. We then refine the group meeting information to support consideration by the governing body and incorporation into the organization’s prioritization and decision-making process.

Local governments are looking to use ARPA funding for the greatest positive impact on meeting community priorities, stimulating business opportunities and improving agency performance. Our strategic planning consultants facilitate prioritization workshops with your organization’s leadership that frame your community interests in addressing programmatic, community, and funding impacts from COVID-19 and guide the organization through a process that measures benefits and costs to determine which projects to pursue. The result can then be aligned to funding eligibility.