Boulder dashboard shows ARPA spending with $11.4 remaining to be doled out

Feb. 7—Boulder has created a new funding dashboard to keep residents up-to-date with how it spends and plans to spend the remaining American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

The new tool comes after many small business owners and members of the Boulder arts community pressed the City Council for more financial support while they recover from the coronavirus pandemic and grapple with high inflation.

In 2021, the city received $20.15 million in ARPA dollars as part of federal funding allocated to help states and local governments bounce back from the pandemic. During a December City Council meeting, staff recommended the remaining $11.4 million be used to support city programs, such as behavioral health improvements and child care support. It also recommended $547,321 of the funding be reallocated from the public health reserve to instead support human services, homelessness services, small businesses and arts organizations. During the meeting, City Council unanimously agreed to increase the recommended $150,000 for Boulder arts organizations by an additional $100,000.

Staff is expected to bring its final recommendations back to City Council this month for approval.

The new tool announced Friday shows how that money has been spent by breaking Boulder's ARPA spending into three categories: human services, economic recovery and city operations. Each subject can be further broken down to show initiatives that fall under the category and the way the funding has been appropriated thus far. The city will continue updating the dashboard as the remaining ARPA dollars are issued, according to a news release from Boulder.

The city has provided $915,000 from its ARPA revenue to support the arts workforce, according to the dashboard. But when it's all said and done, that money could only spread so far.

"You shouldn't have to fight for (funding)," said Sara Parkinson, executive director of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra. "I want them to understand that the legacy and the tradition matter, and we are always pushing to grow."

Parkinson spoke at an October City Council meeting and urged the council to dedicate more money to arts organizations after the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra applied for Boulder Arts Commission grants but was denied due to the high demand and limited funding.

Parkinson said donor-based support makes up 60% of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra's revenue. City support is needed to help fill in the gaps and allow the organization to expand its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

An example of how the city has supported that work through the years is Fernanda Nieto, whose role as Boulder Philharmonic's director of education and community engagement, was created by a Boulder Arts Commission grant.

With more funding from the remaining ARPA revenue, Nieto said she hopes to expand programs, such as the Early Explorers, which works with Boulder County Head Start to provide an interactive introduction of orchestral music to preschoolers.

"We need the money to continue understanding what our community needs are," Nieto said. "I would love to have a DEI and belonging training and have experts come in and help us. I think we need support from experts. We have a desire to continue bringing excellent programming to the community."