Interior of the Michigan State Capitol, Lansing, MI (Photo Credit: Unsplash)

3 Ways the Economic Mobility Catalog Can Unlock the Power of the American Rescue Plan

By Nichole Dunn, Ross Tilchin and Isaac Velez

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) gives state, local, and tribal governments a unique opportunity to not only recover from the pandemic, but to address deeply entrenched inequities that have made the American Dream seem out of reach for many.

Even before the public health crisis, economic mobility was stagnating, particularly for communities of color. Disparities in access to food, housing, jobs, and other necessities have only grown worse since COVID-19 struck.

The federal relief program, particularly the $350 billion in State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, represents a potential game-changer. As we discussed in a separate piece, there are five key data, evidence and outcomes provisions of the ARP program that lend the program its power, making it the biggest federal investment in state and local governments capacity-building for using data and evidence to create a more equitable society.

To fulfill the program’s promise, local leaders will need to prioritize investing in proven strategies that bring about lasting change, especially for the most vulnerable members of their communities. Through our work with forward-thinking local officials around the country, we have developed a tool that can help make the most of the federal assistance: the Economic Mobility Catalog.

Here are three ways governments can use the Economic Mobility Catalog to maximize ARPA’s impact for their communities:

1. Adopt programs with a track record of success.

One of the most powerful provisions of the federal program is its push for local governments to invest in strategies that have demonstrated significant positive results. In its guidance for how to use ARPA funding, the Treasury Department encourages the adoption of solutions backed by evidence that they work. “Evidence clearinghouses” that enable the exchange of proven strategies can provide inspiration for addressing a local issue, according to the guidance.

The Economic Mobility Catalog was designed to function as such a clearinghouse — an easy-to-use information exchange to help local governments learn from the experiences of other communities. Local leaders should enlist the Catalog’s robust resources in their efforts to identify and implement evidence-based strategies.

What makes the Catalog an indispensable part of any ARPA-funded project is the fact that 182 of the 188 programs listed have been identified as eligible for the federal program, based on analysis by an outside legal firm.

So if you’re looking for ways to help marginalized students in your community overcome an education gap that has likely widened since the pandemic forced school districts to switch to at-home learning, you could benefit from investing in programs with a track record of improving performance. For example, you could adopt early intervention strategies, such as data-driven child wellness programs and effective teaching methods, that have been shown to promote healthy habits and skills that will serve students even after they graduate.

So far, local governments around the country are beginning to seize this opportunity: according to the first independent analysis of the Recovery Plan Performance Reports of 150 cities, counties and tribal nations, conducted by Results for America and Mathematica, 21 percent of jurisdictions demonstrate clear investments in evidence-based interventions, and another 35 percent demonstrate promising investments in evidence-based interventions.

2. Get help meeting reporting requirements.

The Biden administration is backing up its pledge to ensure that federal dollars deliver impact by laying out a set of requirements to hold governments accountable for their projects. You must provide a detailed report of evidence-based programs, including how much you’re spending on priorities such as unemployment or education benefits. And you have to determine whether the evidence supporting each project is considered strong, moderate, or preliminary.

To help support funding decisions, every strategy in the Catalog comes with a stamp of approval indicating that the program is eligible for ARPA funding, based on our analysis. You can also see how strong the evidence is for each initiative, with documentation to support it, as well as evaluations and implementation materials.

For example, localities that have struggled to address chronic homelessness could adopt a data-driven strategy such as the one used successfully by Abilene, Texas to connect people in need with stable housing and other assistance. Looking up the strategy in the Catalog, you could see that the initiative is ARPA eligible and backed by strong evidence.

3. Set goals for equitable outcomes.

When the Treasury issued its guidance on ARPA spending and reporting, it emphasized promoting equity as a key priority, with a particular emphasis on addressing racial disparities. You’re required to describe the equitable goals and outcomes you hope to achieve with the funding, as well as how you plan to measure success.

To help with setting goals, the Catalog provides local leaders with descriptions of the targeted outcomes and impact for strategies across a broad range of issues, from education and workforce development to criminal justice and financial security.

The hub also features case studies that showcase how strategies have been successfully implemented across the country. For example, Lansing, Michigan piloted a Financial Empowerment Center in the wake of the Great Recession to help families cope with financial stress and start saving for the future. The city’s officials learned some valuable lessons — such as co-locating the counseling services within a community center that provides health, food, and other services — that could provide insights for leaders in other jurisdictions. In addition to reducing Lansing residents’ debt by nearly $13 million and boosting their savings by more than $1 million, the initiative has also shown to help address education gaps, an outcome deemed eligible for ARPA funding,

In addition, Results for America has identified specific ARPA funding that could be used to implement evidence-based interventions in a number of key areas:

Invested properly, with insights from data and evidence, the federal funding gives local leaders a unique opportunity to help their citizens climb the economic ladder and achieve the American Dream. The Economic Mobility Catalog is the toolkit that can help make that happen.

Nichole Dunn is the Vice President of Federal Policy at Results for America

Ross Tilchin is the Associate Director of Economic Mobility at Results for America

Isaac Velez is a former State and Federal Policy Intern at Results for America

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Results for America

Results for America

Working with decision-makers at all levels of government to harness the power of evidence and data to solve the world’s greatest challenges.