Stimulus funding is for sure to be one of the biggest topics of 2021, personally and professionally. But, there are also so many questions around what it means, when it’s coming and what it can be used for – especially for facilities and operations professionals in education and local government.
That's why we recently hosted a panel of experts in education and government operations to answer some of your biggest questions around stimulus.
Let’s dive in to the top five takeaways from the panel to help you feel more confident and prepared about using stimulus funds to better your organization.
You can see the timeline of what has been released and when that affects education and government organizations to help with COVID-19 recovery.
Our panelists discussed how the first round of stimulus funding in 2020 went to PPE and stimulus checks for government, as well as virtual classroom technology and programs like free and reduced lunch for schools.
“The first few rounds [of stimulus] really went to triage.” -Seth Robertson, Vice President - Director of Funding & Asset Management, WithersRavenel
When we asked webinar attendees if they had received stimulus funding from a previous round, they said:
Focusing in on what’s available with the new American Rescue Plan, $350 billion is available to local governments and $281 billion to higher education.
“What this can be used for [for state and local government] is vastly different. It’s going directly to cities and towns. Before funds were coming from programs and now it’s coming from the treasury.” -Seth Robertson
John White, our Senior Sales Manager for Education, said education funds will likely be used not only on curriculum but also necessary capital improvements, fixing issues with water quality and HVAC, etc.
This new funding should allow operations professionals to dive deeper into deferred maintenance areas and invest in infrastructure issues for local governments.
We asked webinar attendees if their revenue has been impacted since the pandemic, and this is how they responded:
That means that for 86% of those polled, they have seen their revenue stay the same or decrease over the past year, which has certainly brought about changes to project(s) that they can take on or not.
Seth Robertson said he’s seen financial stability at most of the communities he works with, though.
Financial condition has been managed well in towns and cities, even if they had to reduce spending to do that.
So, in what areas is this new funding liable to be spent or even where is it allowed to be spent?
For schools, John said it goes back to curriculum needs, as well PPE and funds to address maintenance backlog and deferred maintenance.
According to John, American K-12 schools have $6,500 worth of deferred maintenance per student. And since this is the most direct federal funding since the New Deal in the 1930s, there is hope that maintenance professionals can make an impact on that backlog.
For local government, Seth outlined four areas where money can be spent:
Jeff Pavey, our Sales Manager for Government, said most of the money will likely go to help with the infrastructure crisis in the US, and that’s money well spent.
Seth added that some funding may be spent on job retention and job creation, although it can’t be used for pension plans or to offset revenue impact from tax decreases.
Overall, it’s expected that funds will help organizations not just get back to normal but also make lasting improvements.
When we polled attendees on if they had a plan on how to they will spend stimulus funds:
Seth warned that there will likely be two waves of funds for government, one will go to the state and then local governments will likely get the other half within the next year. The legislation has said expenses must be incurred by the end of 2024.
“The best thing to do now is to look at those four areas and see what applies to you. Identify projects as soon as possible,” Seth said.
Regular reporting and documentation will also be critical to show that money is being well spent, especially in case there is more funding to come.
Jeff echoed this: “Being prepared to get the money and knowing where you’re going to spend it is important. The earlier you know, the better.”
For schools, John says maintenance professionals likely already have a running priority list of what to tackle first, but it’s important to get that list verified by a third party. He suggests doing this through a facility condition assessment to identify how best to extend the life of your assets.
John encourages education professionals to “use this money to get back to a better normal.”
Review your entire organization and operations and see where you can improve and what you can tackle.
It’s clear that citizen expectations have changed some since before the pandemic.
Seth says as local governments have realized efficiencies and virtual opportunities for citizens to engage, citizens now have higher expectations about what they should be able to easily do online.
We asked attendees how they planned on addressing government technology spending, compared to pre-pandemic, and this is how they responded:
Jeff says that this past year has seen quicker adaption of new technology than ever before, which has contributed to citizen expectations rising and a lasting commitment by local government to make this change in going more virtual.
So, at the end of this year, what does a successful stimulus-funded program or use of funds look like? Our panelists see a lot of positive impacts that are possible with the funds.
“Spending the money quicky and getting good metrics from it,” Seth said. If operations professionals can use the money as an investment to help them move forward and improve infrastructure, then it will be a success, he says.
Jeff said he sees it really kickstarting infrastructure investments nationwide, leading to changes that positively affect everyone.
"I’m hoping to see some transformative things happen... to make operations more efficient,” John said.
Overall, we feel very hopeful about the injection of stimulus funds helping you, our unsung heroes, to better use funds, tackle projects and make a difference in the safety and well-being of our communities.