Community Outreach Report

American Rescue Plan

Cover of the American Rescue Plan Community Outreach Report

Executive Summary

The City of Boise received $36 million through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding provides the city with a once in a generation opportunity to invest in our community, meet our residents’ most pressing needs, and allow us to rebuild a stronger, more equitable economy as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To ensure that we prioritize funding to meet the needs of those most impacted and hardest hit by the pandemic, the Mayor’s Office and the Office of Community Engagement partnered with key stakeholders and non-profit partners to identify needs in the community.

Together, we determined five priority areas:

  1. Housing
  2. Mental Health
  3. Food Security
  4. Small Business Support
  5. Childcare

The next step in the process was to hear directly from underserved and underrepresented community members, including refugees, immigrants, seniors, Hispanic/Latino community members, individuals with disabilities, renters and low-income residents.

The Mayor’s Office and the Office of Community Engagement hosted three small-group, invite only listening sessions with Mayor McLean and Boise City Councilmembers to hear ideas, solutions, and insights from impacted residents directly on ways we can invest these funds most effectively. The listening sessions were held in November and December 2021. Those who were unable to attend in person had the opportunity to provide input through an online idea generation portal, which launched on September 16, 2021, and closed on January 3, 2022.

This report outlines the City of Boise’s community outreach process. It includes all of the input gathered from Boise residents on the key areas of need through the listening sessions and the online idea generation page. Summaries of the conversations from the listening sessions and an analysis of the online portal responses are detailed in this report.


In May of 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the launch of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, to provide $350 billion in emergency funding for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments. Recipients have the flexibility to invest funds in diverse ways to best address the needs of their communities. The funds may be used to:

  • Support public health expenditures
  • Address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency
  • Replace lost public sector revenue
  • Provide premium pay for essential workers
  • Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure

While the City of Boise has until 2024 to allocate funds and until 2026 to spend them, it is important to Mayor McLean and the City to understand the multitude of needs in our community and address them as quickly as possible.

To ensure our recovery efforts match the needs of the community, especially those who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, Mayor McLean, Boise City Councilmembers, and staff have gone directly to community members and partners to collect ideas, solutions, and insight that will help us invest these funds effectively.

Community Outreach Process Overview

Meetings with Community Partners

City of Boise staff met with various nonprofits, organizations, and community partners, including United Way of the Treasure Valley, Idaho Community Foundation, Idaho Nonprofit Center, Idaho Foodbank, Boise Schools Foundation, Surel’s Place, Boise Contemporary Theatre, Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children, Jannus, PODER of Idaho, the African American Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Foster Youth Advisory Board, and Boise School District. Conversations centered around what the communities they serve need most during the pandemic, recent successes and pain points, possible solutions or strategies, and any potential capacity they have for increasing their impact and services.

It was through these conversations that city staff developed five key areas of need for our community. These key areas of need were used as the foundation for the following listening sessions and online idea generation portal.

Listening Sessions

Three one-hour listening sessions were held in November and December 2021 with Mayor McLean, Boise City Council members and residents from communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

City of Boise staff worked with community partners, including non-profits, resettlement agencies, housing providers, as well as their own established networks to invite community members to attend a listening session. Each session included a diverse group of community members – renters, immigrants, refugees, members of the BIPOC communities, seniors and others. Each group was candid in sharing their own experiences, as well as those of their friends and families, around the five priority areas, which provided the opportunity for collaborating on how funds could be distributed within each of the five key areas of need to facilitate recovery. The discussion also touched on everything from accessibility to reliable and affordable broadband internet.

Listening Session #1Nov. 10, 2021Whitney Community Center8
Listening Session #2Nov. 13, 2021Global Lounge17
Listening Session #3Dec. 8, 2021Library! at Cole & Ustick11

At each meeting Mayor McLean and council members welcomed the group and shared their vision for using ARPA funds in a way that integrates community feedback to have the greatest impact in our city, and for those hardest hit by the pandemic. Attendees heard a brief overview of ARPA, how much the City received, their guidelines and deadlines, as well as the City’s community outreach and decision-making process. Attendees then engaged in small group conversations at their tables to brainstorm ideas for each of the key areas of focus. Each group then reported back to the room while City staff took detailed notes on sticky pads. Discussion questions were designed to elicit input and direct experiences on the most common difficulties residents have been faced with throughout the pandemic. Attendees were asked to reflect on the barriers that impact housing and food stability, mental health, childcare, access to internet, and running small businesses. They were asked to identify resources that helped them, or resources they wish they had access to, and how those would impact their community.

Example discussion questions include:

  • Have you, your family or friends struggled to find or keep housing? For example, paying rent or mortgage?
  • What expense is the most difficult for your family, or for those you serve, to pay?
  • What would make starting or running a small business easier in Boise?
  • If you had access to cheaper, faster internet, how would it affect your life on a daily basis?
  • How can the City of Boise use the American Rescue Plan funds to help address the needs identified around housing, childcare, small business support, food security, mental health and broadband?

Online Idea Generation Portal

The portal was announced by Mayor McLean at her State of the City address on September 16, 2021 and opened the same evening. The Office of Community Engagement and Mayor’s Office staff shared a link to the portal to their partner networks and on City of Boise and Mayor McLean’s social media channels. Information about the portal was included in the City of Boise’s weekly newsletter, In the Know.

Respondents were asked to submit ideas for addressing each of the key areas of focus, as well as the potential impact their idea would have on vulnerable communities. The portal clarified that these five key areas had been identified by the City in collaboration with community partners including nonprofits, resettlement agencies and the school districts. It also included a link to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s ARPA Fact Sheet, which contains very detailed information about the guidelines on how the funds can be used. Many of the respondents only filled out answers to one or two of the key areas of focus. Some who completed each field repeated their answers in each section, while others provided unique solutions for each area of focus.

In total, 315 people filled submitted ideas and recommendations. Boise residents accounted for 295 of the responses, while 20 responses come from people living outside of Boise, and even outside of Idaho.

Responses by Zip Code


Results: Listening Sessions

Community members pointed out that many of the key areas of focus are inextricably linked – especially mental health and housing stability. Loss of revenue for small businesses impacts housing; access to mental health resources impacts one’s ability to find and keep employment; and housing affordability impacts one’s ability to afford childcare. They also shared that transportation has a direct impact on each of the key areas of focus and should be considered during these discussions. Attendees insisted that help cannot come fast enough for our community, but that short-term and immediate interventions need to be paired with long-term, sustainable strategies.

Many attendees were in favor of using funds to support the work being done by local non-profits, community partners and leaders, and to prioritize community-based programs. Some of the local organizations that were specifically mentioned include the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club.

Several groups had discussions around accessibility; attendees identified barriers that prevent Boise residents from finding and accessing existing resources. Programs and funding provided via ARPA should be low barrier, translated into the languages spoken by residents (other than English), distributed in an accessible format, and not require the use of technology/internet. There were also many discussions around ensuring initiatives funded by ARPA remain accessible and relevant for our refugee and immigrant communities. For instance, community housing, food banks, and mental health resources should be appropriate across diverse cultures. One attendee pointed out that Phoenix allocated a percentage of funding specifically for their refugee and immigrant populations.

Specific feedback for each area of need is outlined below:


  • Rents are increasing
  • Barriers to housing include not having credit or rental history, seniors on fixed incomes, etc. 43% of BSU students are experiencing housing insecurity
  • Rental assistance/subsidization; utility assistance; rapid rehousing
  • Rent stabilization
  • Tax breaks/incentives for developers building affordable housing and/or ADUs
  • First time home buyer funding/loans
  • Create community and/or intergenerational housing that has on-site job training

Mental Health

  • Criminalization of mental health
  • Stigmatization of mental health, especially in immigrant and refugee communities
  • Difficulty finding mental health support/resources in languages other than English
  • Prolonged isolation impacts mental health – especially for seniors
  • Increase number of mental health providers
  • Create a pipeline for students interested in working in mental health
  • Mentorship or peer support programs for youth and for adults
  • Communications that normalize discussing mental health and seeking support
  • Identify ways to support folks in mental health crises, like training safety officers

Food Security

  • Barriers to access food stamps
  • Food stamps do not cover hygiene items
  • Food security options need to be culturally appropriate

  • Offer food pantries within walking distance of impacted communities
  • Funding for senior centers providing food & other necessary items (incontinence supplies)

Small Business Support

  • Instability in hours/closures impacts employee retention
  • Employee wages are not high enough to retain workers

  • Direct assistance for small business who lost revenue, microloans
  • Incubators or mentorship programs for small business owners


  • High cost of childcare and lack of childcare facilities
  • Low wages for childcare workers
  • Gaps in resources for teens - especially teens aging out of foster care or teens with limited family support
  • Refugee and immigrant families often do not have families to help with childcare
  • Trusting a new childcare provider during a pandemic is a potential barrier

  • Fund after school programs
  • Enhance wages and benefits for childcare providers
  • Provide technical assistance for childcare facilities
  • Childcare cooperatives


  • Internet is an essential utility for school, working from home, applying for jobs, accessing resources
  • Internet is important for refugee and immigrant communities to connect with family abroad
  • Access to internet is more difficult in apartments
  • Decrease cost
  • Increase quality, especially in older neighborhoods

Results: Online Idea Generation Portal

This section of the report outlines the number of ideas submitted via the portal for different categories/approaches to each of the key areas of need. Responses were assigned to general categories – and many responses ended up falling under multiple categories since folks tended to offer more than one possible solution to the issues. Refer to Appendix A to find example responses for each category.

It is worth noting that we received the most responses to the housing availability and affordability question and the fewest responses to the small business support and food security questions. To be specific, 266 of the 315 total respondents submitted ideas for housing, 192 answered for mental health, 155 for food security, 136 for small business support, and 175 for childcare. It is possible that this decrease resulted from survey fatigue and does not represent how respondents felt about each key area of need.

Housing Availability and Affordability

Increase availability of/access to affordable housing
Improve zoning code36
Provide support and protection for renters36
Build public/subsidized housing28
Improve/expand homeless and emergency shelter23
Reduced property taxes19
Monitor/ban short term rentals16
Improve public transportation10


  • Cohousing/home sharing program
  • Provide incentives for developers
  • Fund solar panels/green energy improvements

Respondents were generally in favor of using ARPA funding to increase the availability of affordable housing – though some respondents wanted to incentivize developers to build more affordable housing and others wanted the city to build more low-income public housing. There was also a significant focus on improving shelter options for people experiencing homelessness. Several respondents simply wanted ARPA funds used to lower property taxes, suggesting that we use the money for the city’s water and sewer infrastructure upgrades. Many respondents also wanted relaxed zoning restrictions so that homeowners could build tiny homes and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). There were several answers that highlighted the need for improved public transportation across the Treasure Valley. There were also several responses asking that transportation needs for the elderly and folks with mobility impairments be addressed.

About 30 responses suggested supporting existing organizations and programs, including:

  • Jesse Tree
  • The Boise Rescue Mission
  • Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority
  • LEAP Charities
  • NeighborWorks Boise
  • Our Path Home
  • IBM Watson Care Manager
  • Interfaith Sanctuary

Mental Health

Improve access to mental health resources39
Provide free or sliding scale therapy/counseling32
Addiction and substance use treatment19
Hire mental health and social workers as first
Improve/expand shelters and resources for people experiencing homelessness in our community16
Community building and destigmatization of mental health13
Promote health and wellness12
Hire mental health workers at schools10


  • Suicide prevention programs
  • Build mental health facility/treatment center

While a few respondents were opposed to ARPA funds being used for mental health resources, most were strongly in favor of addressing this issue in our community, pointing out that mental health is linked to several of the other key areas of need. Many respondents said that there is a need for more mental health providers and treatment centers. Others addressed the need for breaking down barriers that prevent people from accessing existing resources. These ideas included a mental health communication campaign from the city, building community centers or starting mentorship programs, and hiring mental health workers or social workers at schools. There were almost 20 respondents who wanted to ensure social workers were the ones responding to mental health crisis calls or domestic violence calls instead of, or perhaps along with, police officers. Some suggested reallocating funding from the Boise Police Department (BPD) for this initiative, while others wanted BPD to hire social workers or other trained professionals from the mental health field.

Many people identified specific communities that have a greater need for mental health support:

  • Healthcare workers
  • Teachers and other essential workers
  • Children
  • LGBTQIA+ community, specifically trans and nonbinary youth
  • People with disabilities
  • Unhoused people
  • Refugees
  • Seniors
  • Those in prison and formerly incarcerated people

A few responses suggested providing grants to or collaborating with existing organizations:

  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Genesis Community Health
  • Valor Point (a permanent supportive housing unit focused on housing veterans who were previously experiencing chronic homelessness)

Food Security

Improve or open new food banks/pantries47
Create community gardens24
Provide free school meals15
Address food deserts9
Provide nutrition/cooking classes9
Enhance SNAP8
Reduce transportation barriers8
Address food waste7


  • Increase collaboration between local farmers, restaurants, grocery stores, and food banks
  • Make a ‘free’ tent at the farmer’s market

While less than half of respondents filled out this section, there were many responses in favor of using funds to alleviate food insecurity in Boise. Many respondents suggested either opening new food banks/pantries or providing funding to existing food banks. Folks also wanted ARPA funds used to provide free meals in schools, year-round. There were several responses advocating for community gardening projects that incorporated free nutrition/cooking classes. Respondents also wanted to address issues around food deserts, food waste, and transportation barriers when accessing affordable and healthy food. Many respondents wanted us to “keep it local” by supporting local farmers, preserving farmland in Boise, and partnering with local farmers, food banks, and non-profits to solve food insecurity.

When asking for expanded funding for local food banks, folks wanted to make sure funding was used to provide healthier and fresher food, add locations, expand hours, expand delivery capability, and provide household/cleaning items. The food banks and other programs mentioned include:

  • Idaho Foodbank
  • St. Vincent de Paul
  • United Way of the Treasure Valley
  • Protect Idaho Kids
  • Boise Mutual Aid
  • Rolling Tomato
  • Boise Urban Garden School (BUGS)
  • Global Gardens

Small Business Support

Provide grants for small businesses33
Create training/mentorship programs for business
Loans for small businesses10
Reduce taxes9
Create job training programs for workers8
Revitalize downtown/improve transportation8
• Give local businesses preference in City of Boise purchases
• Small business themed First Thursdays
• Increase minimum wage

Less than half of respondents filled out the small business section, and there were a few people opposed to using ARPA funds for small businesses. However, there were many respondents who strongly supported providing grants and resources to Boise small businesses, especially when it comes to preserving/revitalizing our downtown and ensuring Boise residents who work at local businesses receive livable wages. A few respondents wanted the city to make downtown parking free and keep 8th street closed to cars. There were a few who suggested we prioritize giving grants or seed money to co-ops, BIPOC-owned businesses, and businesses that plan to spend the money on upgrades that will mitigate the spread of COVID-19.


Financial assistance to childcare facilities29
Extra pay for childcare/education workers27
Direct funding to families21
New city-run childcare facility18
Incentivize businesses to offer childcare17
Financial assistance to schools13
Reduce barriers to licensing daycare facilities10
After school programs7


  • Initiative to get all Boise daycares STAR rated
  • Montessori programs

Less than half of the respondents filled out the childcare section, though only a few showed any opposition to spending ARPA funds on childcare. There was significant variety in the ideas suggested for improving childcare in Boise: grants for childcare facilities, after school programs, and schools; increased pay for childcare/education workers; subsidized childcare; incentives for businesses to offer childcare to their employees; and reduced barriers to licensing new daycare facilities. Several people were in support of establishing free, universal preschool at public schools in Boise. Some respondents wanted to make sure that funding for childcare facilities and schools specifically goes towards mitigating the spread of COVID-19.


While there was not a section in the survey addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, several common suggestions arose out of the responses:

  • Increase pay for healthcare workers, those who work in retirement homes, those who work in cemeteries, and other essential workers
  • Provide more rapid testing sites
  • Create pop-up vaccine clinics with a community-building focus
  • Provide free masks
  • Provide funding for businesses, schools, and childcare facilities to improve air ventilation and physical distancing


In general, the ideas, feedback, and recommendations shared in the listening sessions and through the online portal are similar to what we’ve been hearing in and from the community over the course of the last 18 months. Key callouts include: the need for more affordable housing, increased support for frontline and essential workers, improved access/removal of barriers to resources and information, enhanced support for small businesses, improved access to healthy and culturally appropriate food, and destigmatization/access to mental health resources.

The next step in the process for allocating ARPA funds will be to share this report with Mayor McLean and leadership to determine:

  • If we can allocate funding quickly to impact needs in the community
  • Short-term and long-term strategies to provide relief to our most vulnerable residents impacted by COVID-19
  • Additional funding sources or partners who can support the needs of our residents

Once Mayor McLean and city leadership review the report, the Office of Community Engagement will develop the next round of community outreach to ensure that residents are informed on next steps and have the opportunity to collaborate on how we continue to support those most impacted by the pandemic.

Download Report as pdf

ARPA Appendices

Message Sent Successfully!

Message Failed To Send.

Send a Message to Mayor's Office

Thank you for your interest in the City of Boise Mayor's Office. Please complete the form to have your inquiry sent to the Mayor's Office staff.