In 2021, the Biden administration passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocating federal funds to accelerate recovery from the economic crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hester Street (HST) partnered with People’s Action, a national network of grassroots organizations, and Local Progress, a movement of local elected officials, to support pandemic recovery relief in communities across the country, including St. Louis, MO, Hartford, CT, Firelands, WA, and in greater Alabama.

HST regranted funds and offered tailored technical assistance to four grassroots organizations advocating for equitable and effective investment of the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) available under ARPA. In St. Louis, Missouri Jobs With Justice (MOJwJ) was able to successfully implement a guaranteed basic income (GBI) program, after convening with council members and demonstrating the success of a direct cash assistance program through a case study produced by our team. In Alabama, Hometown Action developed an interactive storymap to support environmental justice advocacy efforts and guide effective use of ARPA funds toward climate resilience. Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG) developed a presentation based on a survey about food justice and access in Hartford, and proposed both a privately-run and city-supported grocery store, as well as support for farmers’ markets. Based on a survey of working families in Firelands and throughout rural Washington, CBO Firelands Workers United / Trabajadores Unidos released a policy brief with community-sourced solutions for expanding climate-resilient affordable housing, investing in healthcare and childcare, and improving natural resource industry working conditions.

In addition to the technical assistance provided under this initiative, in 2022, our team developed the Lead Together website and listserv, a hub with educational resources for community organizers, CBOs, and state, local, and tribal governments seeking to address long standing inequities and invest in long-term needs for their communities.