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Takoma Park, MD Allocates More than 50% of its ARPA Spending Plan to Advancing Equity

City of Takoma Park, MD

Takoma Park, MD

The City of Takoma Park, MD knew it had a historic opportunity to advance equity in its community using ARPA funds. The city lacked a data-driven methodology to methodically and transparently prioritize the allocation of those funds to achieve equitable outcomes.

Topics Covered

Transparency
Economic Inequality
Fiscal Uncertainty

Cost

Initial: 18 Thousand USD

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Federal grants

Project Status

Operational since 2022

Gov Champion

City Council, City Manager, Office of Equity

Problem Addressed

The City of Takoma Park received $17.4 million in ARPA funds and needed to prioritize proposals that would advance equity in the community. 

Takoma Park has a population of 17,672 residents on the Maryland border to the nation's capital. The population is very diverse with 56.7% being people of color (34% African American and 14.5% being Hispanic or Latino), and 31% of the city population being foreign-born (34% of all residents speak a language other than English while at home). 

Within the city, there are a number of disparities that impact residents' lives and hinder equity. 7.6% of Takoma Park residents live below the poverty line.  There are socioeconomic divides in the city that track along racial lines, with African American and Hispanic residents having lower levels of education and higher unemployment rates. There are also divides between homeowners and renters, with renters struggling more than homeowners even before COVID hit.

Although these disparities existed before COVID, their scale was exacerbated by the pandemic. Funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) offered Takoma Park a rare opportunity to close those disparities. Along with the opportunity came an incredible responsibility to utilize those funds in the best and most impactful ways possible.

The City of Takoma Park received $17.4 million in ARPA funding, which amounts to half of the city's regular annual budget, and city leaders put care and consideration into allocating this historic funding. There is natural friction in opinions regarding the use of these resources, so a clear plan was necessary to gather and identify the best proposals that addressed short- and long-term needs.

To ensure the city used ARPA funding to produce the most positive and equitable outcomes, Tacoma Park needed an objective, repeatable methodology to evaluate and prioritize proposals.  

Solutions Used

Takoma Park used a data-driven budgeting methodology to ensure the proposals chosen for ARPA funding would achieve equitable outcomes.

When the first tranche of approximately $8M arrived in July 2021, the city appropriated just under $3M towards immediate needs like food security and eviction prevention. But after that, city leaders wanted to slow down and methodically approach the remaining funds using the Priority Based Budgeting methodology from ResourceX. 

The city's plan of how to allocate the $17.4 million in ARPA funding entailed five phases: 

  • proposal creation
  • proposal development
  • proposal evaluation/scoring
  • proposal prioritization
  • spending plan formulation 

Takoma Park also identified three target areas for their spending plan: assisting the city's most vulnerable residents and businesses, investing in city facilities and public infrastructure, and supporting city operations, workforce, and fiscal stability.

Proposal Creation and Development

The first step in building the city’s ARPA strategy was gathering suggested proposals from residents and other stakeholders. Takoma Park's proposal generation phase created a database of more than 40 proposals made by councilmembers, residents, nonprofits, and other stakeholders housed in the ResourceX software, OnlinePBB. The software allowed the city to customize the submission process to capture the relevant and desired data points.

Takoma Park's proposal creation and development phase ran from July 2021 to October 2021 and resulted in 40 proposals with $40 million in funding needs. 

Proposal Evaluation and Prioritization

It was critical for Takoma Park to conduct the evaluation of ARPA proposals evaluation in a clear and objective manner so the resulting funding allocation achieved the best possible equity outcomes for the community.

From the original 40 proposals, staff and city leaders used a custom scoring rubric and ResourceX's Priority Based budgeting process to identify 19 top-ranked proposals. Scoring criteria categories include Council Priorities, Resident Impact, Equity Impact, Internal Impact, Cost & Complexity, Outcome Measurement Alternatives. 

Some example projects from proposals submitted to Takoma Park include: 

  • direct cash assistance
  • a community ambassador program
  • nonprofit grants to help fill service gaps
  • mental health counselors
  • a business incubator
  • multi-family housing rehabilitation
  • new library construction
  • a digital equity initiative

Outcomes

1

Tacoma Park advanced equity in the city by allocating 50% of the ARPA Spending Plan to direct investment in vulnerable communities

2

The city prioritized proposals that would benefit the community and allocated $4.8M to renovating city facilities & improving public infrastructure

3

Takoma Park addressed the financial impacts of COVID-19 on city operations by allocating $2M to support city operations, workforce & fiscal health

4

The city was able to customize its ARPA proposal submission process to capture desired data points and allow for standardized evaluation

Lessons Learned

1

It's critical that a clear and objective ARPA proposal evaluation is conducted, resulting in an equitable and prioritized funding allocation to achieve strategic outcome for the community.

Who Should Consider

Communities struggling to develop a coherent, transparent and equitable ARPA proposal development and prioritization plan.

Government Project Team

  • Vernae E. Martin, ARPA Manager
  • Jessica Clarke, Deputy City Manager

Last Updated

Apr 4th, 2022
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