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eCivis CGMS Tackles Top FAQs About the American Rescue Plan Act

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If you still have lingering questions about the American Rescue Plan Act and what it entails for grants management from a financial and programmatic standpoint, you’re not alone. 

In an interview with KMOX Radio (the voice of St. Louis), our very own Certified Grant Management Specialist (CGMS), Merril Oliver, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer at eCivis, sat down with the show’s host, Ryan Wrecker, to address some of those questions. Merril has served on the frontlines of grants management during her time in the public sector. 

Having served four governors, both Democratic and Republican, Merril served as the Director of the Maryland Governor’s Grants Office, a nationally recognized “best practice” by the National Governors Association, where she revolutionized an enterprise approach to full lifecycle grants management. In 2014, Merril served as the Deputy Director of the Puerto Rico Governor’s Office of Management and Budget in charge of the Federal Funds Management Office, where she spearheaded accountability measures, tools, and resources to position Puerto Rico as one of the leaders in federal funds management. 

During the interview, she shared her insights on how governments can set themselves up for success and know what to expect when managing this emergency funding. You can listen to the whole 12-minute audio interview below:

 

Q: When you look at this funding going out to governments, do you believe the money is getting into the right hands?

Merril: The flow of funds are going through state and local governments so the provisions in the Act do require a level of oversight, transparency, and accountability. There are requirements that the recipients of those dollars report back to the government that the money did go to its intended purpose and got into the appropriate hands. 

Q: Do you think the wide definition of “eligible expenditures” could lead to governments unintentionally spending funds the way they shouldn’t be spent?

Merril: There’s a level of flexibility provided within the Act because different communities have been impacted very differently. It’s incumbent upon those units of government to have those internal controls in place. The detailed reporting has to float back up to the government–they will be held accountable for the way funding has been spent. Governments need to ask themselves, “Are they driving impact for their communities?”

Q: Can governments spend funding on other priorities if it’s not completely COVID-19 related?

Merril: The provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act are also intended to help stimulate economies in various communities. Being data-driven at the local government level and being held accountable for those activities do fall within the Act and the way it’s been written. These flexibilities can help so that the economy can ultimately begin to recover. There is going to be a requirement in the level of reporting to showcase how funding spent elsewhere, i.e. infrastructure, helped stimulate the economy or provided a level of rescue for a specific community.

Q: Who is that governing body that will determine if funding was spent responsibly?

Merril: Ultimately, it will be auditors at the community level who are going to be evaluating how these funds are being used. Governments need to ensure they’re applying data-driven approaches to demonstrate the need for funding as well as be accountable for program outcomes so they can point to direct measurable results. 

 

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