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How is Your Community Using ARPA Funds to Support Workforce Development?

We Want to Hear From You


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The American Rescue Plan Act

One of the largest investments from the federal government in recent history has come from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Passed in 2021, ARPA provided money to advance the country’s economic recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. $350B of the $1.9T appropriated in the bill went to state and local governments to help them navigate the revenue shortages caused by the pandemic and fund projects to strengthen local economies.

States and municipalities are limited in the types of projects they can spend this money on, but the broad categories include: supporting public health expenditures, addressing negative economic impacts, replacing lost public sector revenue, providing premium pay for essential workers, and investing in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.

These funds were partially distributed to states and local governments in May of 2021 and the rest arrived in June of 2022. Governments have until the end of 2024 to fully obligate these funds for a specific purpose and until the end of 2026 to spend these funds. Many North Carolina local governments have already begun the process of obligating and spending these funds to support their residents and strengthen local economies. At the ncIMPACT Initiative, we are interested in the ways local governments are using these funds to enhance workforce development, especially in providing support for young adults (ages 16-24), consistent with our Carolina Across 100 – Our State, Our Work project

We note that across the state, some cities have allocated ARPA funds to programs designed to expand the job market and make it easier for job seekers, especially those between the ages of 16 and 24, to connect with employment opportunities.  For example, the City of Durham approved funding to two projects in this area. The first provides $150,000 to Durham’s Children’s Initiative and their ConnectEd to Career Pipeline project. The funds will be used to ensure that the youth served by the organization have the assets they need to overcome barriers in their search for living wage employment or completion of a post-secondary education credential. Another initiative seeks to provide resources to reduce the barrier of a lack of digital access. Given that many job listings are posted online and require some form of digital application, not having consistent or reliable access to a computer can be a barrier to many young people seeking employment.

In Charlotte, several organizations have been allocated funds to help connect young people with employment. Cakeable Charlotte, a workforce organization helping those with intellectual disabilities, was allocated over $810,000 to support a vocational training program at the Cakeable Café. She Built This City, a non-profit working to get more women interested in construction related careers, received funds to support their workforce development efforts. The group offers offer paid apprenticeships to help women learn skills such as carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC and helps match apprentices with employers at the end of the program. Also, the Academy of Goal Achievers was allocated money to support their mentorship program to help young people navigate and complete high school, and transition into post-secondary institutions that support their career aspirations.

Some counties have also allocated funds to projects that will help increase access to living wage jobs for young people. Cumberland County, for example, will provide money to support Fayetteville Tech Community College’s HOPE program, which connects participants with high-demand employment opportunities and provides accelerated training in job-relevant skills. A similar, apprenticeship program through the Asheville Chamber of Commerce is also being funded by Buncombe County.

This survey seeks to hear more about funds being used explicitly for workforce development. We understand that other counties and towns across North Carolina are choosing to fund capital projects likely to have an impact on workforce development. For example, Alexander and Moore Counties are using ARPA funds to upgrade existing water infrastructure, and others like Cherokee, Rutherford, and Graham are exploring options to expand broadband access. However, please only include workforce projects.


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Keep Learning

The ncIMPACT Initiative and NCGrowth collaborated on a series of focus groups talking with young adults, employers, and workforce support providers to understand more about the challenges and opportunities in the workforce. Learn more about our research.

Learn more about our research: