Home » Insights » Blogs

ARPA vs. CARES: What’s the Difference?

American rescue plan text on paper

What is the CARES Act About?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed in March of 2020, allotted $2.2 trillion to provide fast and direct economic aid to the American people and government agencies negatively impacted by the COVID-19. Agencies applied for funding from their state with specific technology requirements to support remote work and continuous operations for their employees and communities. CARES funds were limited to non-budgeted technology needs and must be implemented by December 31, 2020. This implementation deadline extended to December 31, 2021.

What is ARPA?

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is the third and largest and most broad COVID-related appropriation act passed in the United States in the past year.

What is in ARPA

The $1.9 trillion of funds will be distributed across the country, including much-needed relief for state and local governments, K-12 education, and higher education institutions to address operational technology needs.

Agencies must obligate the funds by Dec. 31, 2024, and spend them by Dec. 31, 2026.

ARPA State and Local Funding

This is big news for government agencies – just in time for budget planning too! Many agencies announced that plans for the next fiscal year are suspended because this incoming aid and strategic planning is needed to make the most of the rescue funds. ARPA funds go beyond the rescue aspect but support future-proofing government operations for generations to come.

“This is new deal level change to government and education. This really is a chance to make a generational investment in local government and education to help them prepare and be ready for the next era where more and more services are expected to be digital. Citizens expect to access information and expect to be able to work remotely, securely, easily, and safely. I really think this is going to have long-lasting benefits and impact for local government.”

Ryan Gallant, Owner, Slate Consulting
Source: American Rescue Plan FAQ

How Do We Apply for Funding?

Direct payment from the Treasury will be made to:

  • States (defined to include the District of Columbia)
  • Territories
  • Tribal governments
  • Counties
  • Metropolitan cities

Research and request your funding on the US Treasury portal.


Under ARPA, state and local governments can allocate funds for a wide range of technology needs, including but not limited to upgrading cybersecurity infrastructure, implementing digital service platforms, and enhancing broadband access.

Yes, there are limitations on using ARPA funds for certain types of technology projects that are deemed unrelated to the objectives of the legislation. This includes non-essential software upgrades or luxury technology items. Review the specific ARPA guidelines provided by the Treasury Department to ensure compliance with eligible expenditure categories.