- By Julia Steege-Reimann -
After being awarded over $21 million in ARPA funds, Hemet, California’s leaders gathered community input on how to best allocate recovery funding. Survey responses from over 273 residents and 92 businesses led the city to invest over $1 million in addressing homelessness.
The City of Hemet was awarded over $21 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to support its public health response and lay the groundwork for its community to rebound from the devastating economic impacts caused by Covid.
Like many local municipalities, Hemet officials want to put the much-needed funds to good use. Aware of rising resident expectations for government accountability, Hemet was eager to uncover which areas needed the most support. The City wanted to collect input from the community on how the funds should be used and prioritized so those priorities could be outlined in the City’s 2021 strategic plan. Given that ARPA funding was distributed to various cities around the county, Hemet also wanted a way to benchmark its performance and get an idea of its comparable success in meeting the needs of the community.
Hemet leaders are turning to Polco’s ARPA Engagement Package to address their community information needs.
“After hearing about Polco’s tools for connecting with residents, it was a no-brainer for us to use the ARPA Engagement Package,” said City Manager Cristopher Lopez. “It’s critical that we are getting info from residents and businesses to help guide staff to make recommendations on how we invest ARPA funding.”
The City surveyed both residents and businesses to ascertain what the priorities should be as far as planning and budgeting the funds. Within the survey, several priorities were listed that included economic aid to households experiencing financial hardship, investment in housing (services for homelessness, affordable housing development), and assistance to workers who lost jobs or wages due to the pandemic.
Because the surveys were digital, Hemet officials and staff were able to track and visualize survey results using easy-to-use dashboards. The City received 300 responses to the survey and communicated that all ARPA funding expenditures would be aligned with survey responses, Treasury guidance, and the Strategic Plan adopted in June 2021.
Both businesses and residents prioritized safety and the local economy, and indicated a strong need for behavioral health care services. Specifically, many residents mentioned addressing homelessness.
For these reasons, Hemet decided to use their ARPA funds to address issues related to homelessness because of the topic’s alignment to survey findings, Treasury Guidance, and Hemet’s strategic plan. The City Council authorized a little over $1 million for case management and outreach for those experiencing homelessness.
Hemet’s leaders are excited to continue using community surveys to chart their roadmap over the next several years.
“We plan to do future surveys with Polco to see where we move the needle when it comes to this baseline that we identified,” Lopez said. “We see this as the beginning of what we hope is an ability to gauge effectiveness and resident sentiment over the course of many years.”
Using resident feedback from the ARPA Engagement Package, the City Council decided to direct over $1 million to case management and outreach for those experiencing homelessness. Additionally, the City advanced community goals by aligning ARPA funding expenditures with survey results, Treasury guidance, and the City’s Strategic Plan. Utilizing the responses from over 273 residents and 92 businesses, the City now has a representative snapshot of community sentiment on spending ARPA funds. In the future, Hemet’s leaders intend to conduct the survey to measure progress and the effectiveness of their interventions.
Hemet also used the survey opportunity to gauge resident thoughts on the local government’s performance through targeted questions that addressed the quality of services provided by the City.
Counties, cities, and towns looking to gather reliable resident feedback in order to support the allocation of ARPA funding.
This article was originally published on The Atlas.