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How the American Rescue Plan can help your department fund needed communication equipment purchases

Federal pandemic relief funds are available to help your agency upgrade its radio network to enhance interoperability and better serve your community


Apply for American Rescue Plan funds to help your department purchase new radios/communication equipment. Application assistance is available from the PoliceGrantsHelp team and L3Harris.


Sponsored by L3Harris

By Samantha Dorm, PoliceGrantsHelp Staff

The American Rescue Plan is aimed at providing relief for local and state governments and businesses struggling due to COVID-19, as well as to achieve other priorities of the Biden administration and Congress. The $1.9 trillion legislation is in addition to nearly $4 trillion in COVID relief provided in 2020.

The ARP provides $350 billion to help states, counties, cities and tribal governments cover increased expenditures, replenish lost revenue and mitigate economic harm from the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional funds are included in the bill that may enable the first responder community to invest in communications systems.

What you need to know

ARP provides for direct aid to both state and local governments, as well as several competitive grant program opportunities to improve local community response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The $350 billion direct aid package is broken down into the following formula:

  • $195.3 billion to states and the District of Columbia.
  • $20 billion to tribal governments.
  • $130.2 billion to local governments.

The first round of ARP payments was issued in May 2021, with the remaining balance to be delivered within 12 months.

The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds provide substantial flexibility for each jurisdiction to meet local needs, including support for households, small businesses, impacted industries, essential workers and the communities hardest hit by the crisis. These funds may be used to cover costs incurred to:

  • Respond to workers performing essential work during the public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers or grants to eligible employers.
  • Provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue of states, territories or tribal governments due to the public health emergency.
  • Make investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

Two key restrictions on the use of funds:

  1. States and territories are barred from using funds either to directly or indirectly offset a reduction in their net tax revenue resulting from a change in law, regulation or administrative interpretation during the covered period that reduces or delays any tax or tax increase.
  2. States, territories, metropolitan cities, municipalities and counties are also prohibited from using funds for deposit into any pension fund.

Departments are encouraged to review the reporting requirements to ensure compliance prior to expending the funds. All states, territories, tribal governments, metropolitan cities, municipalities and counties receiving payments must submit periodic reports with a detailed accounting of the uses of funds.

NOTE: State and local governments are allowed to transfer funds to certain groups, including special-purpose units of state or local governments, such as SWAT or crisis response teams.

ARP Impact on Law Enforcement

Police departments should work with their local governments to advocate for their share of the direct funds to their cities and counties. The use of ARP funds could enable communities to strategically invest in technology and services that create a foundation for more effective response to future public health emergencies.

The first part of the process is learning how the funds will be distributed in your community. The process for allocating funds varies by community. Who will be making the decisions? How/when should proposals be submitted? What should be included in the request?


Focus on the basics when making your request: What is the role of communications to address a public health crisis in your community, or a spike in crime attributed to the pandemic?


Before submitting your funding request for high-ticket items, take a moment to get a sense of how the American Rescue Plan will impact your community. Download a breakdown of estimated allocations to state and local governments to get started. Decision-makers may not take your request seriously if your department is asking for more than the amount that has been allocated to your area or if the request only benefits a narrow part of local government responsibilities.

Focus on the basics when making your request: What is the role of communications to address a public health crisis in your community, or a spike in crime attributed to the pandemic?

Be ready to justify your request with qualitative and quantitative data. At a minimum, be prepared to include key statistics related to the demographics of your area, size of your coverage area, the average number of calls per year, and an overview of critical infrastructure. Prior to the pandemic, many states had issued dates to comply with acquisition of interoperable communications. This information should also be highlighted in all justifications for funding.

Consider NIMS when applying for funds

In 2003, President George W. Bush issued two directives that continue to have an impact on emergency response and management in the United States. In regard to communications standards, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8 was created to strengthen preparedness capabilities of all levels of government against terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies.

HSPD-8 requirements include provisions that affect agencies receiving federal assistance. Over the years, many revisions have been made in various part of the original directive; however, communications standards have consistently been a priority of every subsequent administration.

As you advocate for the approval of funding for local law enforcement communications projects, consider the principles of the National Incident Management System (a FEMA program) to help justify your request. Here is a refresher:

Communications and Information Management Principles

  • A common operating picture that is accessible across jurisdictions and agencies is necessary to ensure consistency among all who respond to or manage incident response, at all levels.
  • Common communications and data standards are fundamental. Effective communications, both within and outside the incident response structure, are enhanced by adherence to standards.

Principles of Supporting Technologies

  1. Interoperability and compatibility. Systems must be able to work together.
  2. Technology support. All organizations using NIMS should be able to enhance all aspects of incident management and emergency response.
  3. Technology standards. National standards will facilitate interoperability and compatibility of major systems.
  4. Broad-based requirements. NIMS provides a mechanism for aggregating and prioritizing new technologies, procedures, protocols and standards.

Interoperable communications provide a lifesaving capability that can benefit every community across the United States. By sticking to the NIMS model, your department should be able to easily correlate your pandemic response efforts to enhancements in communication tools.

Engage other stakeholders and pool your resources

Most states have county emergency management offices that assist with implementing state/federal policies for interoperable communications, P25 compliance, etc. It’s important to make sure your project meets any state/local requirements. Being aware of how various stakeholders will be affected by communication changes is important to address in discussion with the decision-makers for the ARP direct allocations.

When neighboring jurisdictions are also receiving ARP funds, consider partnering with these other agencies for radios through a consortia or regional initiative. This method with reduce the financial burden of each single jurisdiction and help to ensure that in a time of need, all systems are compatible so your agencies together can provide the highest level of service to the community.

Apply with help from PoliceGrantsHelp and L3Harris

Customized grant help for radio/communications projects, including research, alert notices and application reviews, is available from the PoliceGrantsHelp team of grant experts. Whether you’re just starting your project or need to add the final touches to an application, our staff of grant consultants has teamed up with L3Harris to provide grant resources and services specific to radios.

The L3Harris P25 radio system combines the benefits of an IP-based network with industry-recognized P25 standards for a single, cost-effective, IP-based network with high reliability, proven interoperability and clear and secure communications.


For more information visit L3Harris.

Read Next: The impact of the American Rescue Plan on local government

Samantha L. Dorm is a senior grant consultant for Lexipol, serving, and PoliceGrantsHelp. She first began working as a consultant for the grants division of Praetorian Digital (now Lexipol) in 2010. Dorm has been instrumental in providing grant writing guidance to various public safety and non-profit agencies throughout the United States to enable them to obtain alternative funding as well as provide instruction on statistical compilation, analysis and program development. Dorm is a reviewer for several federal agencies and also instructs grant writing workshops.