Graphic Journalist Nhatt Nichols has been exploring how rural areas across the country are using funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). To help tell the story, she’s using comics, not spreadsheets, as her format of choice. Enjoy this initial snapshot from two corners of rural America.

Comic panel showing a farm landscape with text that reads The American Rescue Plan Act gave money directly to counties, cities, tribes, and states that needed funds due to the pandemic
Comic panel showing a small town main street with text that reads The funds were designed to be flexible, as every community had different challenges to overcome
Comic panel showing a hand holding seedlings with text that reads They were simply meant to be spent on equitable stability and growth
Comic panel showing a farmers market with text that reads A way to build more resilient communities that could come out of the pandemic stronger
Comic panel showing a wildfire with text that reads And more capable of surviving the next crisis
Comic panel showing a budget paper with text that reads With their budgets for 2022 being finalized, how are communities using their funds?
Comic panel showing workers filling a pothole with text that reads Some are using it to patch holes in their budgets or retain employees that they thought they would need to lay off
Comic panel showing a Indiana road sign with text that reads Indiana has taken a long view approach to funding
Comic panel showing a map of regions in Indiana with text that reads They broke their state into regions and had those regions identify where funding would create the most significant impact
Comic panel showing two people meeting across a table with text that reads In many places, there are only one or two experts in a field
Comic panel showing a government building with text that reads Like the mental health field, for example
Comic panel showing a gathering of people with text that reads But by combining communities they were able to bring their experts together
Comic panel showing a lit lightbulb with text that reads And identify ways they could spend money to support each other's efforts
Comic panel showing a woman lifting up a baby with text that reads One project that Joe Carley from the Center for Rural Engagement has found compelling challenges how childcare is provided
Comic panel showing Joe Carley with text that reads One of the regions has worked with local businesses to identify ways to provide childcare for their workers. They have identified unused locations like a spare room at a school that would be ideal for a childcare center.
Comic panel showing Joe Carley with text that reads Childcare is too expensive for most families, so this is a great way to address economic disparity and equitably grow rural wealth.
Comic panel showing a map of Washington state with text that reads On the other side of the country, Snohomish County, Washington, is using its funding to provide people who have lost their jobs with training in high demand occupations
Comic panel showing a Help Wanted sign with text that reads The impact of the ARPA funding hasn't fully affected those in need yet

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