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Met Branch Trail | Photo by India Kea

Quick Facts:

  • Purpose: To provide relief and funding assistance to state, local and Tribal governments to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and support a strong, equitable economic recovery
  • What sets it apart: These funds provide substantial flexibility to allow local, state and Tribal governments to meet local needs in responding to the coronavirus pandemic
  • Funding Provided: $195.3 billion to states and the District of Columbia; $65.1 billion to counties; $45.6 billion to metropolitan cities; $20 billion to federally recognized Tribal governments; $4.5 billion to territories; $19.5 billion to non-entitlement units of local government


On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act into law to provide support to state, local and Tribal governments in responding to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and to help contain its spread throughout communities and businesses across the country.

Within the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (CSLFRF) program was created to assist governments in responding to the COVID-19 emergency, bringing back jobs and supporting an equitable recovery.

CSLFRF is based on formula grants, meaning that state, territorial, metropolitan cities, counties and Tribal government receive a portion of their share of funds directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury Department), while local governments that are considered non-entitlement units of local government receive funds from their respective state government. Funds can be transferred to constituent units of government or private entities and private nonprofit organizations. This process differs from competitive funding in that governments will not need to submit applications or certifications to receive their portion of funding.

To help meet the needs of governments in addressing the impacts of the pandemic, the U.S Treasury has provided broad spending categories:

Within these categories, recipients are given the flexibility to decide how best to use their funds to meet the needs of their communities.

What’s New:

As it is a direct response to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, all American Rescue Plan funding is new and the Treasury Department has been updating its guidance for the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. To ensure that the funds can directly benefit local communities, the funds offer substantial flexibility to meet the unique needs and challenges of governments across the country. Within this guidance, trail and active transportation projects are eligible for CSLFRF funding if they support the broad categories set out by the Treasury Department.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments have seen significant increases in the use of outdoor public spaces such as trails and parks, often resulting in damage or increased maintenance needs. The Treasury Department recognizes improving and maintaining these outdoor spaces as an eligible use of funds for multiple reasons, including:

You can read more about trail and outdoor space eligibility through the Treasury Department’s FAQ, which will be periodically updated to respond to stakeholder questions.

What We’ve Learned:

At the start of the pandemic, advocates worried that state and local funding for trails and active transportation projects would be thin as public health costs rose. However, the public’s interest in trails for walking, biking and outdoor recreation surged as people took to local outdoor trails to safely recreate and travel to work and essential services. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy found that nationwide trail usage increased by nearly 200% than in 2019 – underlining their importance as essential community infrastructure.

Recognizing their increased usage and importance during the pandemic, we have started to see examples of state and local governments using American Rescue Plan funds to help pay for trails and active transportation projects in their communities. For example, $60 million in ARP funds were added to Indiana’s Next Level Trails initiative. In Virginia, $1 million of their ARP funds have been provided to the Department of Conservation and Recreation for trail system connections at Lake Royal Park in Fairfax County. In Arizona, $20 million in ARP funding used to launch their Visit Arizona Initiative will go towards capital improvements for Arizona State Parks and Trails.

Rails-to-Trails encourages trail and active transportation groups to engage their local officials regarding the use of American Rescue Plan funding for trail projects. We will continue to gather examples of how these funds have helped local and state governments across the country meet the needs of their communities through active transportation projects.

Other Resources: