How to Help Your Community Access CARES Act Aid

The immediate economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local governments cuts deep. Nearly 100 percent of municipalities with populations of 50,000 or more surveyed anticipate revenue shortfalls due to unexpected revenue declines, according to a new joint survey from the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

With local revenue from fees and taxes quickly running dry, communities are turning to federal and state partners for immediate assistance.

The CARES Act — which included funding for existing federal housing, transportation, economic development, and community services programs in addition to new direct aid for states and some local governments — has and will continue to provide some relief.

APA curated these federal resources to help position planners as the local government professionals who know how to quickly and easily access available federal guidance for programs and stabilization funds included in the CARES Act. We will continue to update this page as new CARES Act guidance is released.


New Emergency Relief Funding

Federal Reserve Board

Federal Reserve Municipal Bond Program

Allows the federal government to directly buy up to $500 billion in short-term debt from states and eligible cities. Cities must have populations exceeding 250,000 residents to sell debt through the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility.

Eligible kinds of debt include tax anticipation notes, tax and revenue anticipation notes, and bond anticipation notes, and other short-term notes with maturities no longer than 36 months.

Additional Municipal Bond Guidance for Communities


Treasury Department

Coronavirus Relief Fund

Provides $150 billion in stabilization funding to states and local governments with populations exceeding 500,000 residents. Other local governments are eligible to receive funds through state allocation.

Relief funding may only be used to cover expenses incurred due to the coronavirus; were not accounted for in budgets most recently approved; and were incurred during the period that begins on March 1 and ends on December 30, 2020.

Coronavirus Relief Fund Guidance

Coronavirus Relief Fund FAQs


Supplemental Funding for Existing Federal Programs

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Community Development Block Grants

Provides a total of $5 billion in new funding, including:

  • $2 billion in formula funding for states and entitlement communities based on FY 2020 formula. The deadline to access funds is April 28, 2020.
  • $1 billion in additional funding for states for COVID-19 activities, including within entitlement and non-entitlement communities, based on public health needs, risk of transmission, number of coronavirus cases compared to the nation average, economic and housing market disruption, and other factors determined by the Secretary. These funds will be awarded by May 13.
  • $2 billion awarded by HUD Secretary to states and local governments, according to a formula prioritizing risk of transmission, number of coronavirus cases compared to the national average, and economic and housing market disruptions due to COVID-19.

Formula Funding for States and Entitlement Communities

HUD FAQ: Using CDBG Funds for Staff Costs and Unused and Partially Utilized Space

Quick Guide to CDBG Eligible Activities to Support Coronavirus and Other Infectious Disease Response

HUD Releases $3 billion in COVID —19 Relief Funding for Communities


Homeless Assistance Grants

Provides a total of $4 billion in new funding, including:

  • $2 billion in formula funding to current grantees, distributed by April 28, 2020.
  • $2 billion awarded by HUD Secretary to states and units of general local government, according to a formula prioritizing the increased number of homeless persons, sheltered and unsheltered due to COVID-19.

HUD Search Tool for Homeless Assistance

HUD Actions and Resource Guides for Homelessness


Public Housing Operating Fund

Provides $685 million distributed to public housing agencies with expanded eligibility to support the health and safety of assisted individuals and families and to support education and childcare of impacted families.

FAQs for Public Housing, Housing Choice Voucher and Native American Programs


Tenant-Based Rental Assistance

Provides $1.25 billion in additional funding for rental assistance, which serves as a critical resource for communities in providing affordable housing options for residents in need.


Project-Based Rental Assistance

Provides $1 billion in additional funding for the program, which serves as a vital resource for communities in creating affordable housing options that meet local needs.


Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS

Includes an extra $65 million with $50 million for formula funding and $10 million for one-time, non-renewable awards to grantees with additional flexibility.

HOPWA Guidance for COVID-19


Department of Transportation

FTA Transit

Provides $25 billion in emergency funding for recipients of urban and rural formula grant programs with $22.7 billion to large and small urban areas and $2.2 billion to rural areas.

Funding will be provided at a 100-percent federal share, with no local match required, and will be available to support — beginning January 20 — capital, operating, and other expenses generally eligible under those programs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.

Supplemental Public Transportation Apportionments and Allocations


Federal Aviation Administration

Airport Improvement Program (AIP)

Provides $10 billion total using five different funding formulas as 100 percent federal share money. The aid can be used for any purpose for which airport revenues may lawfully be used. Relief funding will be awarded in April.

Additional Guidance for Airport Program Recipients


Department of Commerce – Economic Development Administration

Economic Adjustment Assistance Program

Provides $1.5 billion in grants for economic adjustment assistance for development of public facilities, public services, business development, including funding for revolving loan funds to provide supplemental business lending, planning, technical assistance, training, and any other assistance to alleviate long-term economic deterioration and sudden and severe economic dislocation.

Under current law, the agency may waive or reduce local cost share requirements for distressed areas and those suffering from severe economic dislocation.

Notice of Funding Opportunity 

Addressing economic stress caused by the COVID-19 through the Economic Adjustment Assistance Program.


Department of Agriculture

ReConnect Broadband

Includes $100 million in grants to pilot a national broadband program, providing broadband services to rural areas with more than 90 percent of households lacking broadband speeds of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.

ReConnect Broadband Program Updates


Department of Health and Human Services

Community Service Block Grants

Includes $1 billion in CSBG for local entities to meet increased demand for anti-poverty services. The CARES Act also expands income-eligibility requirements for CSBG programs from 125 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

States must distribute 90 percent of CSBG funding as grants to local entities including local governments and Community Action Agencies.

CSBG Contact Info State Officials and Program Coordinators.


Federal Emergency Management aGENCY

Disaster Relief Fund

The CARES Act provides an additional $45 billion — with $25 billion for assistance with major disaster declarations and $15 billion for other disaster assistance — to the $43 billion allocated under President Trump’s national emergency declaration.

Local government actions taken to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic at the direction of public health officials can be reimbursed through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. Local governments can apply through their state.

Eligible Emergency Protective Measures


Emergency Preparedness Performance Grants

Includes $100 million through state applications with local governments as eligible sub-grantee recipients.

Notice of Funding Opportunity Details

FEMA memo on short-term administrative relief for recipients and subrecipients of FEMA assistance directly impacted by COVID-19 due to loss operations.


Top image: Social distancing sign at Chicago elevated stop. Photo by Flickr user Raed Mansour (CC BY 2.0).


Abput the Author
Emily Pasi is APA's public affairs manager.

April 28, 2020

By Emily Pasi