Making Sense of the American Rescue Plan funds and programs

These documents can help states to think and plan strategically to make best use of the federal resources available from the American Rescue Plan. The documents are available in pdf format here…

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…and in Excel format below. States may want to add to the spreadsheet state-specific programs and resources that complement the listed federal resources — providing visibility into which resources serve which populations with which kinds of services.

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We hope to make these documents available here shortly for crowdsourcing —  to make it possible for users to add to the information on the forms.


State Responses to the Coronavirus Challenge


CREC and Smart Incentives worked with SEDE Network members to develop a guide with principles and framing questions to help states determine possible adjustments to existing incentive performance agreements in response to the COVID-19 economic crisis. This document addresses issues to consider when adjusting the terms of existing incentive agreements for discretionary incentives that have already been provided to companies. See also the Smart Incentives blog article that summarizes the Guide.

Small businesses have been severely affected by the COVID-19 economic downturn. The smallest businesses are struggling the most yet have had the greatest difficulty accessing the major programs intended to assist them. Economic development organizations are stepping into the gap and are being asked to craft responses to provide help. On August 3rd, in collaboration with the SEDE Network, CREC and Smart Incentives published a white paper, “Guidance on Adjusting Discretionary Incentive Programs to Support Small Business Recovery” to help leaders assess their options. A related blog article summarizes the guidance.

State economic development organizations (EDOs) have adjusted incentive agreements, programs, and operations to address the economic threats posed by the COVID-19 downturn. The growing demand for incentive project accountability combined with the legislative push for more formal incentive program evaluations means that EDOs will likely be called on to explain why changes were made and what those changes accomplished. Unfortunately, incentive adjustments will complicate established project reporting and program evaluation procedures. Leaders can take some basic steps now to document incentive changes and lay the groundwork for quality reporting and assessment down the road.

Assessing the importance of incentives in influencing corporate investments is fraught with uncertainty. Since incentives are just one factor among many influencing investment decisions, there are good reasons to re-think how we have come to use the term “but for” when we talk about incentives. This paper by Smart Incentives and CREC suggests that, instead of an all-or-nothing binary approach, the effect of incentives on investment decisions should be considered as a probability between 0 and 100% and offers a methodology for estimation.

As remote work became a more important part of the economic landscape in 2020, state economic development leaders considered adjustments to incentive programs to acknowledge this shift. Several states are addressing remote work in existing incentive performance agreements as companies strive to remain compliant with the terms of their contracts. Others are making permanent changes to their incentive policies as a strategic response to the expectation that remote work will become more widespread. Many more states are still sorting through the implications of remote work for their companies and communities. This paper address the issues state economic development organizations should consider as they determine whether or how to adjust their incentive programs to accommodate remote work. See also the Smart Incentives blog on the topic.

State economic development executives face unique challenges in developing business incentive programs in the post-COVID era. This paper aims to inform the policy discussion so that new business incentive programs will be both effective and responsible in serving each state’s economic needs. The paper has three sections: Incentive Goals and Guardrails, Using Incentives to Address Immediate Priorities, and Enhancing State Competitiveness with Incentives. The guidance provided draws on lessons learned from past recessions, our own work on incentive best practices, recent research examining incentive effectiveness, and responses to economic priorities that have come to the forefront over the last year. The questions in each section provide a framework for considering the critical issues and trade-offs that will help state leaders assess their incentive options in 2021. Click here for a related blog article. 

This infographic illustrates how states can manage incentives for transparency and accountability, providing assistance on determining and reporting on results. This tool breaks down each of the steps economic development organizations can take to collect and manage incentive data, monitor, assess and evaluate program activities, and report results to elected leaders and citizens.

A tool for comparing incentive programs across states.

The Future of Work

This Brookings initiative provides resources and online tools to help local leaders. The initiative seeks to answer three questions:

    • Given current industrial makeup and knowledge of their labor force, how can cities and regions attract growth and nurture good jobs?
    • How can skill-building organizations and policymakers measure and target the skills demanded from emerging local industries to help workers, particularly the most vulnerable, transition effectively?
    • How can companies use data on worker transitions to retrain and prepare their workforce for the jobs of tomorrow? How can companies invest in their workforce to benefit their community and bottom line?

This interactive tool uses over 250,000 real job transitions to trace common pathways into and out of 441 occupations across 130 industries at the national and city level. The Mobility Pathways tool can help workers in struggling occupations find realistic pathways to in-demand jobs, give companies a new lens on recruitment and talent management, and provide policymakers with a framework for tailored and targeted economic and workforce development programs. There is a tutorial page included in the tool and an introductory blog.

In this blog post, Brookings shows that the COVID-19 recession is unique—while many jobs are being destroyed, the crisis is also creating new (if narrow) opportunities. While our data show that many of the hardest-hit occupations have not historically offered pathways into jobs that are currently growing, a number of in-demand jobs are realistic destinations for low-wage workers.

To help strengthen cities’ and regions’ future economic resilience, we developed an interactive tool to explore “job vulnerability”: the prevalence of low-wage jobs lacking employer-provided health insurance. provides data, at the sector and sub-sector levels, for 380+ metropolitan areas and 50 states plus Washington, D.C., which policymakers and firms can use to incorporate job quality into their post-COVID recovery strategies. Here is an accompanying blog.

To preserve jobs and bolster ties between workers and work, Brookings explored new policy tools—work sharing, strategic employee sharing, and portable benefits. This piece was featured in their publication Reopening America and the World: How to Save Lives and Livelihoods.

In a podcast from Harvard Business School, Marcela Escobari discussed how businesses and local leaders can foster strong post-COVID growth while ensuring opportunities for workers’ upward economic mobility.

These two reports on economic complexity and worker transitions undergird most of the work listed above.

Opportunity Zones

The Council of Development Finance Agencies hosts a valuable site on Opportunity Zones, including information on the Opportunity Zone program, the rules and regulations, official Treasury designations, and other useful resources.

This report includes helpful information from the Council of Development Finance Agencies on how states are approaching using Opportunity Zones to advance economic development strategies.

This site includes the press release announcing the official Treasury Department-issued proposed regulations and other published guidance for the new Opportunity Zone tax incentive in October and a link to the detailed proposed regulations.

Talent Development

This paper, developed for the State Economic Development Executives (SEDE) Network, describes promising practices for talent development and how economic development agencies can help companies access the talent they need. It discusses various types of activities that state economic development agencies may consider going forward and what some state economic development agencies are already doing to cultivate a talent pipeline.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock led last year’s NGA Chair’s initiative. Called “Good Jobs for All Americans,” it is designed to better understand challenges and trends and identify actionable solutions to help education and training initiatives.

Other Resources

This white paper, developed for the State Economic Development Executives (SEDE) Network, describes state approaches and promising practices for rural economic development based on recent research findings and the collective wisdom of state economic development officials for improving and expanding rural regions.

This report explores how states can make it quicker and easier for entrepreneurs to launch a new business or bring an innovative product to market. The report focuses on how to improve the efficiency of regulatory systems so businesses can comply with the rules in a less costly and time-consuming manner, and/or partner with businesses to increase compliance as well as economic opportunity.

  • Integrating Equity into Incentive Metrics

    State and local experts and practitioners discussed emerging approaches to measuring and reporting on diversity, equity and inclusion impacts within incentive programs during the recent SEDE Network roundtable program, Integrating Equity into Incentive Metrics.