The Unlikely Coalition that Won $20 Million of ARP Funds for Affordable Housing in Maine


Project Overview

For weeks, labor, climate, and housing organizers in Maine had been collaborating on a bill for a housing bond. When the Biden administration dropped one of the largest buckets of money into the state budget in decades through fiscal recovery funds as part of the American Rescue Plan, these advocates saw a new opportunity to fund their priorities. They set their sights on securing $100 million in ARP funds for more affordable housing with higher labor and energy standards.

There were a lot of priorities to juggle, Cate Blackford of Maine People’s Alliance said. The coalition had a hardline: “We would not compromise on labor or efficiency standards or on ensuring the new housing would serve those who needed it most,” she said.

It was especially difficult to navigate how to strengthen work standards for the new housing projects. “Because finance packages are so complex, adding in any additional requirements on the projects made it impractical for some of the contractors,” Blackford explained. And builders, like nearly every sector, were affected by Covid-related worker shortages.

Community-Centered Process

Each member of the coalition used their unique powers to move legislators. Labor organizers leaned in heavily on Senate leadership. And once the green builders got into the mix and said they would take on the projects with higher labor and efficiency standards, their coalition grew even more powerful. While labor threw down their political power, the green builders made phone calls to their networks, and affordable housing advocates organized lobby days and ran social media campaigns to engage the public.

Organizing Wins

In the end, they secured $20 million in ARPA funds for affordable housing that were — for the first time ever — qualified with higher energy efficiency and labor standards. But they made a mistake, Blackford said. Because many Senate leaders were hearing so often from the labor end of the coalition, they knew they had to keep the higher work standards in their legislation. But when leadership moved the proposal from the original legislation into the budget, the energy efficiency standards were inadvertently not included.

“While this was disheartening when it happened, the end result was actually much more powerful,” Blackford said. The coalition continued advocating through the rulemaking process and ultimately passed an amended version of the original bill to maximize the energy efficiency standards for all new affordable housing.

Equity Goals

While a huge and necessary investment, the ARP funds were a one-time infusion of cash, so the next step for Maine People’s Alliance is a push for more sustainable money. Namely, moving more of the state budget from general funding into housing to the tune of $20 million a year and paying for housing with funds from the estate tax. They’re also working with groups like the Maine Immigrant Housing Coalition to make it easier for affordable housing projects to get permits and establishing a new state voucher program that is more flexible and can serve folks regardless of their immigration status.

And Blackford sees a definite future for this coalition of labor, environmental, and housing groups in Maine, even if it wasn’t an easy road. “We had to build a lot of trust and work out the details together. Those back-and-forth conversations created a lot of buy-in from everyone in the coalition,” said Blackford.

They now have the frontline formation to take on other issues that are important to all of them, she said, like access to clean water and project labor agreements on renewable energy projects.

The Unlikely Coalition that Won $20 Million of ARP Funds for Affordable Housing in Maine2022-07-25T19:58:26-04:00

Fiscal Recovery Funds Allocation for States


Detailed allocation information for the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds published by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Fiscal Recovery Funds Allocation for States2022-07-27T22:18:13-04:00

Flexible Recovery Funds Offer States a Tool to Advance Environmental Justice


Climate change and other environmental challenges pose a serious risk to people’s health and well-being, especially those with low incomes and communities of color. Some state and local governments are confronting these challenges head-on, using Fiscal Recovery Funds to invest in efforts to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency, stem pollution, clean up environmental hazards, and mitigate or reduce harm to habitats from a variety of sources.

Flexible Recovery Funds Offer States a Tool to Advance Environmental Justice2022-08-15T20:04:36-04:00

States Must Address K-12 Unfinished Learning for an Equitable Recovery


As K-12 schools continue to recover from COVID-19 pandemic disruptions, states can equitably support students, especially students of color, English learners, students with disabilities, and those from families with low incomes, to complete unfinished learning and address the widening education opportunity gap.

States Must Address K-12 Unfinished Learning for an Equitable Recovery2022-08-30T19:15:19-04:00

COVID-19: Local Action Tracker


Created by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the National League of Cities. Has information from all sorts of local governments, gathered from public news sites and direct submissions from governments. Has ARPA information as well as data from 2020 COVID legislation. Because the data is often just a news story, follow-up is necessary to verify information. This tracker stopped collecting new information in February 2022, and will not be updated.

COVID-19: Local Action Tracker2022-07-27T22:26:20-04:00

Budget Processes in the States


Since the Budget Processes in the States was first published in 1975, the report has become a significant reference for state budget officers and others interested in the organization and operation of state government. In this report, NASBO compiles state-by-state comparative information on state budgeting practices, organized into six sections. The current version is updated for 2021.

Budget Processes in the States2022-08-30T18:25:23-04:00

Case Studies on ARP Household Impacts


In Spring 2021, the Center on Budget and Public Priorities (CBPP) produced eight diverse case studies based on family arrangements provided by Community Change Action and its partners. The studies analyze how the American Rescue Plan (ARP) affects different working families across the country.

Ali Safawi (Research Assistant, Family Income Support) and Katie Windham (Research Assistant, Federal Fiscal Policy) compiled the information below. Lauren Hall (Research Analyst, Food Assistance), Donna Pavetti (Vice President, Family Income Support) and Cristina Toppin (Intern, Family Income Support) assisted.

Case Studies on ARP Household Impacts2022-07-26T19:17:46-04:00

How will the money flowing from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan be spent?


There are different funding flows for each of the ARP programs, but the bottom line is that lots of that money will flow through the states. This guide will help you identify where your state is situated in the process of spending funds, and how you can take action to get money to the people who need it the most.

How will the money flowing from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan be spent?2022-08-30T18:01:20-04:00
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