The U.S. Treasury Department recently resumed operations of its Office of Recovery Programs Contact Center, providing state and local governments with assistance on the handling of various pandemic-related programs.
The center provided technical assistance to recipients of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds administered by Treasury, but the popular help desk that fielded 300 calls and 2,000 emails a week shuttered its doors last October due to a lapse in funding.
Specifically, the agency’s contact center aided with COVID-19 recovery funding from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund (LATCF), and the Emergency Rental Assistance program.
The contact center was created to help untangle compliance issues associated with pandemic-era funds, and a non-functioning call center since last October has been a pain point for municipalities trying to move forward with a wide variety of project types.
Treasury alerted recipients to the Contact Center’s reopening, stating, “The Contact Center closed last year due to an administrative funding shortfall, which impacted Treasury’s ability to provide support to recipients of funding from the Office of Recovery Programs.”
“However, late last year Congress provided additional resources for the Office of Recovery Programs in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023. As a result, Treasury is able to reopen the Contact Center in order to better support recipients by answering their phone and email inquiries,” the agency said.
The questions fielded by the agency’s help desk ranged from complex inquiries about what projects would be eligible for funding under which programs, to more routine matters like how to change the contact person for local governments.
“This is a huge win for all cities, towns and villages. The process for filing an annual report, required of more than 26,000 [State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF)] grantees, can be complicated and overwhelming to municipal staff unfamiliar with federal filings,” the National League of Cities wrote in a blog post.
The organization continued, “The contact centers helped thousands of municipalities get answers to questions and file their required filings with the Treasury last year. Without the help and assistance of the Treasury, many municipalities may not have made it across the filing finish line.”
“Since ARPA was enacted in March 2021, counties have been working tirelessly with Treasury to ensure Recovery Funds have the flexibility to properly address our unique needs and that we are fulfilling our role as sound financial stewards,” the National Association of Counties stated in a blog post.
“Treasury has been a critical partner and valuable resource throughout the implementation of the Recovery Fund and with the recent release of LATCF payments, this partnership is as critical as ever,” the organization said.
Municipalities needing assistance from Treasury for SLFRF program related questions can contact the agency at SLFRF@treasury.gov or (844) 529-9527.