State Governments Can Help Residents Secure Tax Credits

By Dakota Thomas

State governments can play a critical role in helping their residents get the tax credits they are entitled to receive. Those credits can have a substantial impact in the lives of the individuals and families that need them.  Putting more money into the pockets of families also helps state and local economies by creating demand for goods and services.  The federal government is working with states to reach out to potentially eligible tax credit recipients, especially the child tax credit (CTC) and earned-income tax credit (EITC). 

In a webinar hosted by the White House, a panel of speakers representing various stakeholders emphasized the importance of both “first mile” assistance, meaning outreach and educational efforts, as well as follow up assistance once a person begins the process. The first mile generally involves outreach to make people aware of the potential tax credits and helping determine their eligibility.  Several states have experimented with text message campaigns using lists of possibly eligible residents who are using other programs (e.g. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP) and there is preliminary evidence of success with that approach. 

State leaders can direct residents to childtaxcredit.gov to help them find out if they are eligible and how to apply. States can track whether residents are accessing this information portal by using their state’s unique URL based on their state postal abbreviation. For example, Georgia’s is www.ChildTaxCredit.gov/GA and Washington’s is www.ChildTaxCredit.gov/WA. States also can partner with Code for America to get help conducting outreach: https://airtable.com/shrnyXVEar34xYEB0

Once an individual has learned about the tax credits and determined they are eligible, they may still need further assistance.  For example, many Americans do not actually need to file tax returns, but may still be eligible for tax credits.  For “non-filers,” accessing credits is more difficult as they do not interact with the tax system regularly. To help non-filers, the federal government has set up a non-filer portal: https://www.getctc.org/en More information is available from the webinar:

Oversight of ARPA Spending in the States

By Ben Eikey and Dakota Thomas 

The American Rescue Plan Act includes $350 billion in new funding for state, local, territorial and tribal governments through the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF). Utilizing this large influx of funds to maximize economic recovery presents both opportunities and challenges for states. Recognizing the desire of policymakers to develop and share best practices, the Council of State Governments conducted an extensive 50 state scan of the allocation of ARPA funds, focused on SLFRF. In November 2021, CSG analysts also compiled state ARPA online resources which were shared in this previous CSG blog. These state websites are updated using federally required state government reports on pandemic-related spending. This transparency enables more public participation in strengthening oversight to ensure prudent use of public resources.   

In a 2019 report on legislative oversight from the Levin Center (a national center with expertise on legislative oversight), legislatures in Alaska, California, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania were determined to be particularly effective in using the budget/appropriations process to conduct oversight of spending. In partnership with the Levin Center, CSG analyzed ARPA reporting websites in these 11 states to assess oversight of the allocation of these federal funds. This article highlights promising state approaches to publishing ARPA spending data online. 

Among these states prioritizing budget/appropriations oversight, Minnesota has gone beyond U.S. Department of the Treasury requirements by posting detailed information on a public website about its use of pandemic relief funds. Updated daily, Minnesota’s tracker promises “checkbook” transparency of all state government spending, including ARPA funds. This approach allows the public and the media to augment oversight efforts by accessing granular information specifying how critically important funds are being used. Public and media access to this information puts more eyes on program spending enabling greater evaluation of efficiency and impact. This in turn can trigger legislative oversight investigations, hearings and reform. To make this external oversight function easily manageable, Minnesota offers a five-minute video on their website explaining how to navigate their system. 

As covered in the 2019 report, the approaches these 11 states take to appropriations oversight highlight various practices in funding transparency. A review of their ARPA websites reveals several pathways for spending itemization as states utilize ARPA funds.  

  • Maryland’s website includes detail on all federal funds including ARPA. Approved funds are broken down by agency name or unit name. Maryland could detail how much of approved funds have been spent in the future using this navigable webpage. 
  • Nevada’s public spending spreadsheet shows line-item grant recipients. Nevada may continue to build this resource with details on how grants will be spent in the future and a link to their state government website for more information on the programs receiving grants.  
  • North Carolina’s website offers information for ARPA funding recipients; infographics detailing the rollout of ARPA funds on topics like drinking water projects and broadband infrastructure; and slides presented to state agencies on navigating ARPA spending. They are set up to share spending details on topics of consistent interest. 

Other states have the opportunity to add more spending detail to make the use of ARPA funding more transparent. CSG and the Levin Center will continue monitoring ARPA spending websites to highlight various transparency approaches.  

This article was written in collaboration with the Levin Center at Wayne State Law School. 

Ben Eikey is the Manager of State Training and Communications for the Levin Center at Wayne State Law School. His specializes in legislative oversight and has traveled across the United States to conduct oversight workshops and panel discussions in state legislatures and with partner organizations like The Council of State Governments. 

Dakota Thomas is a Senior Research Analyst at The Council of State Governments. He helps manage the CSG policy research portfolio, including evidence-based policymaking and fiscal policy analysis. Dakota provides technical assistance to CSG members through the collection and analysis of data and work with academic partners. 

Transparency of Transformation: States Implement American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Websites

By Rachel Dietert 

Links to state ARPA Websites

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The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Compliance and Reporting Guidance requires states, territories, metropolitan cities, counties, Tribal governments and non-entitlement units to meet certain compliance and reporting responsibilities regarding how they use and distribute Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. Entities other than non-entitlement units are required to submit an Interim Report, which contains obligations and expenditures. All recipients are required to submit Project and Expenditure Reports either quarterly or annually, with information and updates on the projects being funded. Finally, states, territories, metropolitan cities and counties with a population of over 250,000 must create a Recovery Plan Performance Report detailing how programs that use funding are achieving their goals in an effective, efficient and equitable manner. One way states are meeting these requirements is by creating specific websites related to Federal Coronavirus Relief with special attention to American Rescue Plan websites to provide resources, track utilization of funding or both.  

CSG analysts have compiled state ARP online resources and found that 44 states have some form of American Rescue Plan website, and one state makes an ARP resource PDF document available online. Forty-three states already have submitted their required 2021 Recovery Plan Performance Reports to the Treasury. These reports include information on Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund utilization and can be found here. However, a few states have been given extensions and others have not drawn down funds, so they are not required to report until 60 days post receipts.  

Many legislatures are still in the process of appropriating funds, and as a result, most states are still working to make their ARP fund utilization available for tracking. All 45 state websites currently available provide ARP guidance and resources for their constituents; 16 track state utilization of discretionary Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds; and 18 include planned payment allocation or payment tracking for non-entitlement units. Some particularly innovative, detailed, interactive and visual tracking websites for ARP funding were developed by Hawaii, Missouri and Washington.  

Hawaii 

Hawaii’s website for tracking ARP funds is especially interesting because it is a partnership between the public and private sector. For this website, the Hawaii Data Collective — a private firm — worked with the Hawaii Office of Federal Awards Management, the House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness, the Department of Budget and Finance, the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism and all of Hawaii’s counties. The website utilizes Tableau, a data visualization software, to show where the funds were spent and for what purpose. Viewers can learn more about the policy category funded, the city and county where funds were spent and the remaining funds available. The viewer also can find the dataset the visualizations use at the bottom of the page. Hawaii’s website can be found here

Figure 1. Example graph displaying Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds on Hawaii’s American Rescue Plan Act webpage 

Missouri

Missouri’s website has four different charts breaking down expenditures related to COVID-19 by fund, vendor, agency or object code. This website is interactive — when the viewer clicks any visualization, the rest of the visualizations change according to the viewer’s preference for information. This is especially helpful in learning, for example, which agency used which vendor(s).

Figure 2. Example of the visuals that Missouri’s website provides on COVID-19 Related Expenditures

Washington

Washington’s website is easy to understand and navigate. It allows the viewer to filter federal funds for pandemic relief by agency name, policy category and fund title. The viewer can first narrow funding to just view the ARP-related spending and then filter by category to see, for example, how much ARP funding went to economic support verses health care. Washington’s website also allows for comparison of funding allocations based on agency name or category.

Figure 3. Example graphs on the Washington’s Office of Financial Management Website regarding Covid-19 response funding

See the list below for all state American Rescue Plan resource websites compiled by CSG analysts. The Council of State Governments will continue to update this list as states develop and revise websites.

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Broadband Affordability and Infrastructure

By Ben Reynolds

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act1 — also referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package — passed the House on Nov. 5. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it today, Monday, Nov. 15. The bill contains $1.2 trillion in funding ($550 billion of which is new spending) for various infrastructure purposes, including roads and bridges, broadband, drinking water resources, airports, electrical vehicles and more. In this brief, analysts at The Council of State Governments break down the $65 billion in funding for broadband expansion and access.

Funding Breakdown

  • Establishing the Broadband Equity, Access, and Development Program to be administered by National Telecommunications and Information Administration to states through matching grants – $42.5 billion.
  • Investing in and making permanent the Affordable Connectivity Program (formally known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program administered by the Federal Communications Commission) to provide a monthly subsidy for low-income families purchasing internet service, with higher subsidies for qualifying families in high-cost areas and households participating in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program – $14.2 billion.
  • Investing in the Digital Equity Act Competitive Grant Programs administered by the Department of Commerce – $2.75 billion.
    • State Capacity Grant Program for state efforts to achieve digital equity and inclusion.
    • Digital Equity Act Competitive Grant Programs (from Competitive Grant Program funds) focused on senior citizens, veterans, minorities and individuals with a language barrier – $250 million.
  • Investing in Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program – $2 billion.
  • Investing in Middle Mile Grants – National Telecommunications and Information Administration grant program for the construction, improvement or acquisition of infrastructure (prioritizing underserved areas and requiring buildout to be completed within five years of the grant being made) – $1 billion.

Broadband Equity, Access, and Development Program

NTIA will allocate the $42.5 billion of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Development Program three ways:

  1. Minimum of $100 million funding to each state, with an additional $100 million to be allocated equally among U.S. territories
  2. Allocates approximately $4.35 billion for broadband projects to underserved locations in high-cost areas. Eligible areas will be determined by NTIA based on a formula defined in the bill (e.g., remoteness, population density, poverty, etc.)
  3. Approximately $32.2 billion will be allocated for broadband projects in unserved locations.

The Broadband Equity, Access and Development Program is to be established no later than 180 days after the date of enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. States that wish to participate in the program are to submit a letter of intent, initial proposal and final proposal. Once the NTIA allocates the grants, each state is responsible for submitting a five-year action plan that addresses the areas eligible and the proposed solutions. States can award subgrants to cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, public‐private partnerships, private companies, public or private utilities, public utility districts or local governments.

A matching contribution of at least 25% of the project costs must be provided by a state or its subgrantee. The state match generally has to be from non-federal funds, though some federal sources are explicitly permitted in the bill.

States are required to prioritize unserved service projects until the state can determine universal coverage of all unserved locations. States also must prioritize projects based on additional factors: poverty, speed of proposed services and compliance with federal labor and employment laws.

Sources and Resources

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Roads and Bridges

By Dakota Thomas

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act[1] — also referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package — passed the House Nov. 5. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it today, Monday, Nov. 15. The bill contains $1.2 trillion in funding ($550 billion of which is new spending) for various infrastructure purposes, including roads and bridges, broadband, drinking water resources, airports, electrical vehicles and more. In this brief, analysts at The Council of State Governments break down the $110 billion in funding going to roads, bridges and other major ground transportation projects through the lens of state needs. Itis the largest focus of funding in the bill.

Funding Breakdown

  • Increasing the Highway Trust Fund – $273.15 billion over five years.
  • Expanding eligible uses for Surface Transportation Block Grant funding, including electric vehicle charging, projects to increase tourism and wildlife collision mitigation efforts – $72 billion.
  • Establishing the Bridge Investment Program for renewal projects on bridges that are in fair or poor condition – $40 billion over five years.
  • Creating U.S. Department of Transportation grants for eligible projects including intercity rail, highway and bridge projects, public transit and rail crossings – $15 billion.
  • Creating the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient and Cost Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Program (focused on natural resilience and hazard mitigation) – $7.3 billion.
  • Creating a Carbon Reduction Program (includes investments in sidewalks, bike lanes, public transit projects and technologies to reduce carbon emissions) – $6.41 billion.
  • Creating Rural Surface Transportation Grant – $2 billion over five years.
  • Establishing Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program through the Department of Transportation to reduce collisions with wildlife and improve habitat connectivity – $350 million over five years.
  • Investing additional funding to the off-system bridge set-aside – $258 million.

These are a selection of the largest investments contained in the infrastructure package. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will add $256 billion to the national deficit. While it is difficult to know the full macroeconomic effects of the bill, Moody’s Analytics provides estimates of the effects on employment and the Gross Domestic Product by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

For a breakdown of formula highway and bridge renewal funding allocations by state, see the chart below. Note that figures are estimates and do not include the competitive grants for which states, territories and the District of Columbia are eligible to apply.

Condition of Highways and Bridges in States

Infrastructure needs vary across the U.S. According to estimates from USA Today, the funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will likely benefit the following 10 states the most, as they have a relatively high proportion of roadways/bridges in need of repair. 

Unit% Roads in Poor Condition% Bridges in Poor Condition
Rhode Island24.6%23.1%
Alaska18.7%9.7%
California16.9%7.0%
New Jersey16.8%8.1%
Hawaii16.1%6.9%
Massachusetts15.4%9.2%
New York13.4%10.0%
Iowa7.5%19.4%
Pennsylvania7.1%16.6%
West Virginia4.8%19.9%

Sources and Resources

Highway and Bridge Formula Funding (in millions USD)

Alabama$5,200$225
Alaska$3,400$225
Arizona$5,000$225
Arkansas$3,600$278
California$25,300$4,200
Colorado$3,700$225
Connecticut$3,500$561
Delaware$1,200$225
District of Columbia$1,100$225
Florida$13,100$245
Georgia$8,900$225
Hawaii$1,200$339
Idaho$2,000$225
Illinois$9,800$1,400
Indiana$6,600$401
Iowa$3,400$432
Kansas$2,600$225
Kentucky$4,600$438
Louisiana$4,800$101
Maine$1,300$225
Maryland$4,100$409
Massachusetts$4,200$110
Michigan$7,300$563
Minnesota$4,500$302
Mississippi$3,300$225
Missouri$6,500$484
Montana$2,800$225
Nebraska$2,000$225
Nevada$2,500$225
New Hampshire$1,100$225
New Jersey$6,800$1,100
New Mexico$2,500$225
New York$11,600$1,900
North Carolina$7,200$457
North Dakota$1,700$225
Ohio$9,200$483
Oklahoma$4,300$266
Oregon$3,400$268
Pennsylvania$11,300$1,600
Rhode Island$1,500$242
South Carolina$4,600$274
South Dakota$1,900$225
Tennessee$5,800$302
Texas$26,900$537
Utah$2,400$225
Vermont$1,400$225
Virginia$7,000$537
Washington$4,700$605
West Virginia$3,000$506
Wisconsin$5,200$225
Wyoming$1,800$225
American Samoa$24<-Combined
Guam$95<-Combined
Northern Mariana Islands$24<-Combined
Puerto Rico$900$225
U.S. Virgin Islands$95<-Combined

Data Source:  White House State Fact Sheets.

Note that figures are estimates and do not include the competitive grants for which states, territories and the District of Columbia are eligible to apply.


[1] Also commonly known as the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework.”

State Recovery Plans   

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Interim Rule requires state, territorial, metropolitan city, county and tribal governments that received funding from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to submit an Interim Report and a Recovery Plan Performance Report. Recovery Plan Performance Reports require states to provide information on performance indicators, including information on efforts to promote equitable outcomes and community engagement; plans to use evidence to inform decision-making; and expenditures by program and category. CSG Analysts have compiled recovery plans from state websites and will continue to update this list as states submit plans. 

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Read more about how states are planning to use Fiscal Recovery Funds in this report from The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO)

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