The American Rescue Plan Is A Boon To Hawaii's People And Nonprofits - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Authors

Lisa Maruyama

Lisa Maruyama is president and CEO of the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations.

Melissa Unemori Hampe

Melissa Unemori Hampe is a partner at Maui-based Skog Rasmussen LLC and has more than 26 years of experience in federal policy work.


Government at its finest rises to the challenge of meeting the most urgent needs of its people in the most effective ways possible.

Opinion article badgeNonprofits at their finest ensure community needs are identified, prioritized and met through toil, talent and treasure leveraged from different sources, including government.

It is at the nexus between the government and nonprofit sectors that some of the best ideas and energies meet to do very big things and effect real change. 

Covid-19 has tested our communities and exacerbated the needs that existed prior to the pandemic. Poverty. Houselessness. Hunger. Abuse, in different forms. Social isolation. Lack of access and lack of equity, defined in various ways. 

Taking aim at the pandemic and many of these factors, the federal government passed a series of packages representing an unprecedented investment. Subsequent state and local government funding and policy decisions to use funding from those packages also sent a significant amount through nonprofits, helping to stem some of the worst impacts on our communities.

The American Rescue Plan Act enacted on March 11, 2021 builds on previous relief measures through a $1.9 trillion investment. Sen. Brian Schatz estimated the final package could bring Hawaii at least $1.7 billion. 

At a high level, ARPA is intended to continue combating Covid-19, bringing immediate monetary relief to households and providing resources to schools and businesses. This includes roughly $160 billion for Covid-related expenses in supplies, emergency response, testing, the public health workforce and vaccinations.

As we see ARPA play out, we can also look to potential opportunities that may come through the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure and $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation measures going through Congress. Here are some of the areas where the money is being spent:

  • Organizational assistance. ARPA acknowledges the challenges that certain nonprofits continue to face in keeping doors open and staff employed. Given demand for small business programs, ARPA includes additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and the Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance, focusing on those hardest hit. 
  • Direct relief to people and households. ARPA’s targeted assistance includes cash payments, increases in tax credits, and a temporary unemployment insurance extension. Nonprofits could help applicants navigate government systems, any language issues, a lack of devices or connectivity and unfamiliarity with programs and compliance. 
  • Resources for younger generations. In addition to funds for education at all levels, ARPA includes about $24 billion for the Child Care Stabilization Grant, $15 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and $350 million more for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. It also provides $7.2 billion for broadband access to support distance learning and $200 million for libraries
  • Help to alleviate hunger. ARPA extends the 15% increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as well as benefits for school meals and purchases of fresh produce. 
ARPA funds are being used in Hawaii in many different ways, including providing benefits to feed those in need. 
  • Housing assistanceDespite implementation challenges, ARPA housing resources include $21.6 billion in emergency assistance for low-income renters, $5 billion each for housing choice vouchers and the HOME Investment Partnerships program to help with homelessness, and $750 million for Tribal and Native Hawaiian housing. 
  • Competitive grants. Finally, ARPA includes competitive grants for which nonprofits and others can apply. For example, our Congressional delegation succeeded in including resources for the Native Hawaiian community, such as $85 million for the Native Hawaiian Education Act. An unprecedented $3 billion investment is being issued by the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Spending The Money Wisely

These funds are substantial but not limitless. For the state and local pot, governments should adopt reasonable selection criteria to ensure fair guidelines for spending the money with the greatest impact for the public good. We offer the following four principles to help guide government and nonprofit decision-making:

  1. Prioritize equity from the outset.The pandemic exposed inequities in the delivery of health and human services. Governments can apply these lessons and intentionally listen to marginalized communities for solutions that overcome past and current barriers.  
  2. Invest in economic multipliersHealthy local economies require sustainable nonprofits and businesses. During the pandemic, nonprofit services have been in high demand. Additional investments in charitable organizations will enable hiring to deliver needed services. Investing in nonprofits — the third-largest employer in the country and  consumers of products and services — will allow them to be economic multipliers by providing child care, job training and other services.
  3. Implement quickly, yet fairlyGovernments can balance the need to provide urgent relief while considering programs that can distribute funds in ways that provide quality community benefits. Policies must acknowledge the challenges this can pose for nonprofits and resources needed for quality service delivery. Prompt payment to nonprofits has been a universal challenge; this must be addressed. Otherwise, nonprofits are hobbled to do the very jobs government relies on them to do.  
  4. Maintain accountability via reasonable documentation and transparencyGovernments could maintain proper balance between informing the public about use of funds, maintaining program integrity and imposing reporting requirements. Governments should collect information truly needed and eliminate the collection of needless data points. The best outcomes can occur when governments work together with nonprofits — in advance — to identify documentation requirements. 

With ARPA and its latest infusion of relief, the federal government is calling on all of us to help to make this public-private partnership worth it so that we can weather the pandemic together and come out on the other end as a stronger Hawaii and a more resilient nation.

Let’s leverage the resources of ARPA and any subsequent relief packages to support nonprofits in expanding and replicating innovative programs that will continue to serve Hawaii’s people and drive our local economies.

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About the Authors

Lisa Maruyama

Lisa Maruyama is president and CEO of the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations.

Melissa Unemori Hampe

Melissa Unemori Hampe is a partner at Maui-based Skog Rasmussen LLC and has more than 26 years of experience in federal policy work.


Latest Comments (0)

"we must ensure that the funds are spent well,"..........hahhaha..haha......oh please, that is too much comedy this early in the day.....

rocky · 1 week ago

One thing I learned having worked with (not for) non-profit groups in our state.  If you live by the grant, you die by the grant.There is also a line of reasoning that if funds are provided, by whoever decides, then that proves that they are a viable entity, and that their existence is forever guaranteed.  Now that funds are scarce, more concern is felt by the non-profit sector.  Just as state monies dry up, so, too, will fed funds.If an activity is viable, it doesn't need a subsidy.  And just because it gets a subsidy will not mean that it will be viable.

Ranger_MC · 1 week ago

Yes Free Money can always be put to good use for those who get it---At the expense of others in higher taxes(coming next), increased government debt (just print more money and let your grandchildren pay or our economy crumble with the sheer weight of debt but it wont be our problem because we are no longer here) and inflation(already here and not transitory) and economic growth( government takes jobs away from the private sector and gives money to their willing political partners, the non profits, our 4th branch of government, who support government largess at any price)."But we must ensure that the funds are spent well, with the greatest impact for the public good."  ....... please explain.. who determines that?  A  political vote when government is giving handouts to which the people become addicted?  Those who get the money or votes will say it is well-used, of course. "These funds are substantial but not limitless."  What is the limit? Please explain.."help to make this public-private partnership worth it"    OMG...this slogan never ends, does it?

Anson · 1 week ago

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