Letter: Elected officials and community leaders should step back, create vision for spending

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The infusion of funding provided through the Congressional American Rescue Plan and the Indiana General Assembly’s biennial budget represents an extraordinary, once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of Indiana’s communities and residents’ lives in transformational ways.

We urge elected officials, policymakers and civic leaders to consider a strategic and deliberate approach in determining how to best invest and leverage those funds to achieve long-term gains, as outlined below.

Schools, municipal and county agencies, not-for-profits, community groups and other local organizations have faced unprecedented challenges over the past 15 months, and understandably, most are looking to this funding to address continuing needs, fill identified gaps. There is significant public and institutional demand to allocate these relief and recovery dollars rapidly, in ways that produce immediate, observable results.

For these funds to have the greatest impact on the Hoosier state, it is imperative that elected and civic leaders pause and step back, consider their overall values and vision, gather information and perspectives from a broad base of constituencies, and determine the best course of action to meet local, regional and state needs. We appreciate the urgency of the challenges faced and the desire to show swift action, but we cannot afford to invest in things that do not achieve sustained vibrancy and prosperity for our communities and people.

Our organizations believe firmly that investments must address community conditions—jobs and wages, housing and transportation, education and child care, public health and clinical services, and social and cultural opportunities—in ways that more equitably impact the overall health, well-being and quality of life of our residents.

A thoughtful, measured approach to spending should reflect these strategies:

 Develop and implement a transparent and inclusive process that solicits diverse input and engagement among individuals and organizations.

 Engage the full ecosystem of community partners to expand the range of ideas and contributors to solutions.

 Prioritize spending that will yield long-term improvements.

 Identify strategic opportunities that have emerged over the past year.

 Apply funds in a way that, to adopt Gov. Eric Holcomb’s phrase, takes Indiana communities and its residents to the “next level.”

 Embrace the Hoosier tradition of fiscal stewardship to guide the process for determining how, when, where and in what to invest.

 Use a balance of data, existing plans and new input to inform decisions and drive the process.

 Establish a formal process by which community members and groups can access available funds.

 Document, track and share the process for decision-making and the specifics of how money is spent within the community.

We have a tremendous opportunity to pair the challenges and lessons of the pandemic with these recovery resources to shape a stronger, more resilient future.

Be visionary. Be collaborative. Be transformative.


Accelerate Indiana Municipalities

Association of Indiana Counties

Indiana Association of Regional Councils

Indiana Chamber Executives Association

Indiana Economic Development Association

Indiana Library Federation

Indiana Philanthropy Alliance

Indiana Public Health Association

Indiana Tourism Association

Indiana United Ways

Indiana Workforce Development Board Alliance

Prosperity Indiana

Purdue Extension

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