American Rescue Plan Act funding for communities of 50,000 or fewer people has made it to about 10% of eligible places in Oklahoma.
So far, 65 of the state’s 579 eligible cities have received a total of $37 million through a new, online state distribution system, which is still being brought to scale. The portal was initially opened to 120 smaller cities with representatives at an Oklahoma Municipal League conference in early September, and a total of 325 have now been invited to sign up for it.
"And so, I would say we've had a very successful crawl phase. We find ourself now in the walking and gearing up very soon toward running," said State Grants Management Office Director Clay Holk.
The portal is the result of a partnership between the state and consultants Guidehouse and 929 Strategies. Those private firms are also helping the state allocate its share of ARPA funding.
The portal will open to remaining communities soon, but Holk said looking at the first group given access, he can see continued communication will be necessary.
"Even that subgroup, the 120 who've been continually pinged and received communications, we've still only had about 75% of those who have actually managed to sign up. That is indicative to us that this is a long-haul process," Holk said.
The Oklahoma Municipal League is offering a 20-minute video walkthrough for officials in eligible communities. ARPA funds distributed by the state to smaller cities can be spent through 2024, but they can’t receive relief funding totaling more than 75% of their pre-COVID budgets.
Larger cities get ARPA funding directly from the U.S. Treasury, and the state has formed a legislative committee to decide how its nearly $1.9 billion from the relief package will be spent.