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Planning Underway for Distribution of ARPA Funds

March 31, 2021

The Arkansas State Library will receive $2,660,308 as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The ARPA funds will be disbursed to the Arkansas State Library through the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ (IMLS) Grants to States program.

The funds will be disbursed to the State Library some time in April. Ongoing plans concerning ARPA funds are updated online.

Planned Distribution of Funds

The Arkansas State Library will use the great majority of ARPA funds to provide sub-grants to public libraries. Guidelines and instructions to apply for sub-grants will be available over the next few weeks.

Formal opportunities to gather input are planned, but Arkansas public library directors are encouraged to continue communicating wishes and concerns about the ARPA funds to State Librarian Jennifer Chilcoat.

External Factors that Impact Disbursement Planning

The State Library is not able to distribute ARPA in the same manner as the State Aid funds. As such, the State Library is investing a significant amount of thought, creativity, and preparation to develop a fair plan for distribution to the libraries.

Factors under consideration include:

  • Libraries may spend annual state aid funds received at their discretion, but every ARPA dollar spent must be accounted for and reported to IMLS by the State Library.

  • Funds can only be spent according to the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA); this creates programmatic limitations on how the money can be used.

    For example, ARPA funds cannot be used for land, construction, expansion, or many types of renovation, nor can they be used for advocacy or lobbying.

  • Since the sub-grants use federal funds, each library must complete various forms, including Assurances and Certifications and CIPA Internet Safety compliance.

    All federally-required forms must be signed and submitted before ARPA funds can be disbursed.

  • Terms and Conditions for accepting federal funds are still being developed at the national level. The terms specify the libraries’ responsibilities as recipients of federal funds.

Additionally, while the State Library intends to maximize spending flexibility, it must do so while adhering to the overall spirit and priorities of the legislation.  ARPA is ultimately meant to address problems brought about or exacerbated by the pandemic.

The State Library will honor those priorities, and will not jeopardize its standing with IMLS and risk future funding opportunities.

Finally, the State Library lacks the capacity to track and manage limitless types of projects and expenses due to the IMLS reporting burden. While the State Library will be as generous as possible with its time and staff, it must set reaslistic parameters on the types of projects supported in order to successfully administer the sub-grants.

ARPA Spending Priorities

Below is the purpose and spending priorities of ARPA. Be aware that ASL will not receive the Official Grant Notice until April.


To achieve the American Rescue Plan Act’s purposes with respect to Grants to States, this funding is to be used by September 30, 2022, in helping communities respond directly and immediately to the pandemic, as well as to related economic and community needs through equitable approaches. Spending priorities are as follows:

First, to enable libraries to reach residents with internet hotspots, accessible Wi-Fi, and other digital inclusion efforts, particularly in support of education, health, and workforce development. The following types of data, among others, can inform efforts to reach underserved populations:

  • Poverty/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Unemployment
  • Broadband availability

Second, to provide rapid emergency relief to libraries across the country, allowing them to safely respond to the pandemic and implement public health protocols;

Third, to support library services that meet the needs of communities throughout the U.S., including costs such as personnel, technology, training, materials, supplies, equipment, and associated indirect costs; and

With respect to the three points above, reach tribal and museum partners best positioned to assist with pandemic response efforts, in addition to traditionally eligible library entities, where appropriate.

Arkansas public library directors may contact the State Librarian with input and concerns: