Leveraging ARPA funds for Massachusetts communities

A powerful opportunity for community-led equity. ARPA POWER is an HRiA initiative supporting Massachusetts community groups, residents, and local governments in achieving the equitable distribution of funds through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Our efforts to promote community-engaged decision-making focus on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Today’s act is tomorrow’s impact. Massachusetts is receiving billions in federal recovery aid, and a significant portion remains unspoken for. But dollars must be allocated by 2024, and there’s significant competition for funds.

HRiA is developing and freely sharing ARPA POWER tools, resources, and practices to support community engagement in ARPA decision-making. Use these resources to organize your community, identify recovery spending opportunities to promote equity, and get started making a difference today.


About the ARPA Equity Imperative

ARPA funds are not only an opportunity to advance equity, but a mandate. According to Federal rules, ARPA investments are required to promote equitable outcomes.


Equitable outcomes start with equitable processes

By engaging the residents who understand the pandemic’s true impact, and drawing on their history of innovation and collaboration, ARPA POWER resources center the firsthand experience of those most often left behind.


ARPA POWER’s desired community outcomes:

Lived experience creates lasting insight. In creating community resources to support equity in funding awards, ARPA POWER aims to achieve the following:

  • Increased power of communities to decide, helping to shift both the culture of decision-making within local governments, and the balance of who has the power to change conditions in communities to begin with.
  • Enhanced openness within local governments to collaborate with residents who may have been intentionally excluded or disenfranchised from government budgeting processes.
  • Community-defined ARPA investments that demonstrate a clear path toward improving social and physical environments, and changing systems that are not working and may be causing active harm.


Flexible Funds Mean Endless ARPA-tunities

There are just a few limits on spending, and there’s no minimum dollar amount for projects. ARPA regulations were designed to be flexible, so communities can encourage municipalities to be creative about addressing the needs that exist.

Through ARPA POWER, HRiA has supported Massachusetts towns and cities in implementing millions of dollars for ARPA-funded programs. Examples of Massachusetts ARPA projects include:

  • Housing
  • Health and human services
  • Infrastructure
  • Education
  • Economic development


ARPA POWER Partnerships

Through ARPA POWER, HRiA has also partnered with individual communities to support the design of comprehensive community engagement strategies, including hands-on meeting facilitation and resident communications. Some of our work across the Commonwealth includes:

  • Chelsea – supported a 20-member resident committee in creating an allocation plan that prioritized six areas and $15 million in funding
  • The Berkshires – assisted in developing Berkshire Funding Focus, a clearinghouse that enhances the ability of nonprofits, municipalities, schools, and businesses to leverage and coordinate ARPA funding
  • Everett – supported One Everett’s advocacy and organizing efforts to create a more community-engaged decision making process in Everett
  • Worcester – facilitated the launch of a resident advisory committee to provide feedback on the city’s RFP process, with the committee making recommendations for the allocation of $50 million


About ARPA

Once-in-a-lifetime resources are flowing into communities across Massachusetts through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This economic stimulus bill worth $1.9 trillion was signed into law in March 2021, and is pouring billions in federal COVID recovery aid into Massachusetts municipalities over the next four years.

HRiA’s ARPA POWER initiative is made possible by funding from the Barr Foundation.


Contact us or sign up for more information

If your community:

  • Is seeking insight into ARPA POWER activities in other localities
  • Would be interested in participating in upcoming learning sessions
  • Has questions about ARPA dollars or ARPA POWER resources