More than $150 billion of the remaining ARPA funds is expected to support the public sector, families, and children. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was launched in 2021 to support the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.In 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was launched to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic and support the economy in its recovery. The ARPA allocated funds worth $350 billion intended to support state and local governments. However, more than $150 billion of the allocated funds are still unused. As of October 2022, several U.S. states have used only 38.1% or $74.5 billion of their $195.9 billion allocation. In addition, larger local governments used only 26.6% or $26.5 billion of their $99.8 billion.
According to Stancil, this 2023, state and local governments are expected to prioritize using the remaining ARPA funds on three crucial factors. These factors include rebuilding the public sector, improving the access to paid leave, developing the access to quality childcare and elder care, and supporting those who work in the care systems.
READ ALSO: Tax Refund: Americans To Receive Payments Earlier Than Expected
According to Kamper, unlike in the private sector, the public sector employment is still below the pre-pandemic levels. In December 2022, there were 452,000 less public sector workers than before the COVID-19 pandemic started. In particular, the state and local governments have 2.3% less workers and almost half of those losses are from the K-12 public education.
Furthermore, the public sector did not completely recover from the Great Recession in 2008-2009. The employment in the public sector remained below the pre-recession levels through the 2010s. This means that bringing back the situation in the public sector before the COVID-19 pandemic began is not enough. Lawmakers need to rebuild the public sector so that it can improve its services in public health, education, safety, and others.
Families and Children
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of paid sick and family leave has been highlighted. This is because workers with low income are 3.5 times more likely to have to leave work because of COVID-19 symptoms. In addition, families with income less than $25,000 are the least likely to get COVID-19 vaccination because of the fear of leaving work due to possible side effects.
Furthermore, workers with low income and their families are the most affected by being deprived of care systems. In November 2022, the number of workers who had to leave work because of childcare problems was more than twice as high as it was in February 2020. Only 76% of the childcare services were recovered after the COVID-19 pandemic.
READ ALSO: 2023 Tax Changes That Could Boost Small Business Growth