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ARPA Capital Planning Made Easy With ClearGov


We’ve shared information for using Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for capital projects. We’ve also shared how new guidance for using ARPA funds for general government services has enabled many municipalities to modernize their budgeting process with new software, like ClearGov.

Now we’d like to shine the spotlight on one of our customers, Oswego County, New York, and how they’re using ClearGov to streamline their ARPA capital planning process from start to finish.

Oswego County’s Vision For Using ARPA Funds

When Oswego County received their ARPA funds, community leaders had a unified vision to ensure an accountable and transparent process in their efforts to fund eligible and impactful projects using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

The Oswego County Legislature established the Office of Strategic Initiatives in order to administer and disperse ARPA funding in an accountable manner that strategically addresses the short-term and long-term needs and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, maximizes impactful uses of the funds, and leverages additional funding for public health, public safety, and economic development. The Office was established as a separate and temporary entity within the County for a term to coincide with the statutory period for the use of federal stimulus funding.

One of the county’s primary objectives was to ensure that their investments made using ARPA funds promoted equitable outcomes for every member of the community. Because the application process was open to everyone – from homeowners and small business owners, to large corporations and government entities – they wanted to ensure fair, equal footing for all applicants.

People who wished to be considered for assistance were required to submit signed copies of the application for funding assistance.

Then came the real challenge.

The Move To A Modern, Cloud-Based Budget Solution

Like many local governments, Oswego County was still managing their capital budgeting process manually — with paper request forms, cumbersome spreadsheets, and PDF documents.

With an influx in funds from the American Recovery Plan Act, plus an influx in requests from the community, the county quickly realized they needed a modern solution to manage the process.

David Turner, the county’s Director Of Community Development, Tourism, and Planning and Director of the Office of Strategic Initiative was charged with managing the county’s recovery plan. He began researching cloud-based budget tools, and ultimately landed on ClearGov’s Capital Budgeting and Digital Budget Book solutions in 2021.

David realized they could also use ClearGov in creative ways to manage the ARPA capital planning process.

Using Digital Budget Book

Instead of only using Digital Budget Book to share the county’s adopted budget, David realized the platform could be leveraged to create a dedicated website specifically for their ARPA recovery plan. There were several advantages to doing this:

  • Communicate the plan – The county included pages to educate the community about the American Recovery Plan Act, eligible uses, and the county’s vision for using funds.
  • Communicate the process – The website also has a page outlining the process, instructions for applicants to request assistance, and important dates.
  • Improve transparency – Every request from the community was logged on the sites ‘Proposed Projects‘ page. The page contains graphics to show total proposed expenditures over a multi-year period, funding sources in addition to ARPA, and a complete list of requests. Visitors can click each request and see details, including the application, amount requested, and rationale behind the request.
  • Share approved projects – Once a request has been approved and funded, a dedicated project page is created to share the details, funding sources, and timeline of the project. Residents can subscribe to these pages and check the status at any time.

Once the county had a website in place to communicate the plan, they needed a process for collecting and prioritizing requests.  

Using Capital Budgeting

Oswego County decided to continue using paper applications to collect requests for APRA funding from the community, but David and his team entered each request into ClearGov’s Capital Budgeting tool so that the rest of the process could be automated and streamlined. There were several advantages to doing this:

  • Requests are consistent – A request form for ARPA assistance allowed the county to collect the same information from every applicant.
  • Requests are automatically routed to a digital dashboard – All requests can be seen in one place, at a glance, versus shuffling through stacks of paper and files.
  • Requests are automatically scored – Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of using ClearGov’s Capital Budgeting tool was its scoring capability. The county developed a scoring system based on eligibility for using ARPA funds and the community’s own internal priorities for addressing needs within the community.

We quickly had more requests for assistance than we had funds for, and it was a rigorous process to sort and fairly prioritize requests. This was especially true with ARPA requests, as not everyone has experience writing grant applications. With ClearGov’s scoring system, everyone was on equal footing. No one had an unfair advantage, and with ClearGov’s automatic scoring, the process to review and analyze requests was easy.

David Turner
Director Of Community Development, Tourism, and Planning and Director of the Office of Strategic Initiative.

Since Oswego County adopted ClearGov, several other municipalities in the county have also begun using Operational Budgeting, Capital Budgeting and Digital Budget Book with tremendous success. Department heads have been eager to jump in and found the system intuitive to use, and finance staff sees the clear advantage of having less work down the road after each year of using ClearGov. In all cases, the Oswego municipalities agreed that the onboarding process was a nearly seamless transition, and that ClearGov support staff were available and eager to help at every turn.

Interested in seeing how ClearGov can help you streamline your ARPA capital planning process? Watch a short demo or contact us to learn more!

July 8, 2022

Matt Benati

Matt Benati is Vice President of Marketing for ClearGov®, the leading provider of Budget Cycle Management software for local governments. Matt is passionate about helping organizations modernize their annual budgeting process by automating workflow, increasing collaboration, and improving transparency between governments and citizens.

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