Since the passing of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in early 2021, the unemployment rate has dropped to a near half-century low, with workers of color, rural areas and children in poor families making historic gains.
These and other benefits are summarized in a recent report from the White House, which outlines how 32 programs in the emergency package spurred an equitable recovery from the pandemic. Notable successes highlighted in the 301-page report include a sharp decline in unemployment among people of color, the largest number of new jobs ever in a calendar year and lowering Black and brown child poverty rates.
Key findings include:
- In April 2022, there were 233,000 more Black workers with jobs than in February 2020
- Asian American unemployment was down to 3.1%
- More jobs were created in rural communities in 2021 than in any other year in the last two decades
- Monthly Child Tax Credit payments helped reduce food insufficiency among low-income families by 25%
The report illustrates ARPA’s success by highlighting several positive outcome examples for each program covered in the report, setting it apart from other government-published materials which tend to only outline broad gains.
The Biden Administration allocated $122 billion to the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), a relief program established under the CARES Act to address the impact COVID-19 has had on schools. Unlike the ESSER provision CARES, which favored private and charter schools, Biden’s ARPA prioritized public school districts.
The report documents how ARPA funding was used to make up for lost instructional time, and support students with their unique mental health needs. Cleveland schools used their funds to expand and increase participation in its summer learning program, with enrollment rising sevenfold to 8,400 students. New York City used it to hire 500 additional social workers—at least one for every school—to address students’ psychological needs post-pandemic.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), another program established under CARES, was intended to help small businesses survive but was abused by many large firms. The new administration prioritized businesses of 20 employees or less, the self-employed, and business owners who were previously ineligible due to student loan debt.
This resulted in actual small businesses receiving assistance. The program made two million loans to businesses in low-to-moderate income communities in 2021, a 62% increase over 2020; and PPP loans made by community banks increased from 240,000 to 1.4 million.
The report also touts the successes of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF), a $350 billion provision under ARPA that provides flexible aid to state, local, and tribal governments in responding to the economic and public health impacts of COVID-19.
In Pierce County, Wash., for example, $6 million was used to expand access for mobile covid testing in underserved and vulnerable communities. Minneapolis leaders invested $79 million to promote homeownership, construct affordable housing, and assist homeowners with home repairs. Detroit used $59 million to create a job readiness and employment supports for financially insecure constituents and citizens returning from incarceration.
The world is starting to open up again, but the pandemic isn’t over. Vulnerable communities still need assistance. The report highlights the good things that happen when public spending is targeted to communities that need it most.