NRPA’s public policy and advocacy team advances legislative and programmatic solutions that support our Three Pillars: Health and Wellness, Equity and Conservation at the local, regional and federal level.
During the recent push on Capitol Hill for unprecedented, generational investments in our nation’s infrastructure, NRPA advocated specifically for the advancement of our three pillars including the priorities below.
Parks, Jobs, and Equity Act
The Parks, Jobs, and Equity Act (H.R. 1678/S. 2258) would direct a one-time investment of $500 million towards local parks through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) Program, which invests in community parks where they are needed most. NRPA is working with peer organizations and congressional staff to advocate for the inclusion of this provision in the budget reconciliation package, the Build Back Better Act.
Civilian Conservation Corps
Funding a 21st-century version of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) would provide jobs for people in the U.S. and reflects NRPA’s dedication to ensuring communities are actively involved in workforce training and development to help people feel a connection to the local green spaces in their community. Building a representative workforce by hiring locally directly contributes to healthier communities and growing the next generation of environmental stewards. NRPA is advocating for a CCC program with eligibility for local parks to be included in the budget reconciliation package, the Build Back Better Act.
Clean Water State Revolving Fund
NRPA supports increased funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) — the primary federal financing mechanism for green infrastructure projects. Investments to the CWSRF are critical to mitigate the current and future impacts of climate change. Through the CWSRF’s Green Project Reserve, park and recreation professionals improve community resiliency by employing green stormwater solutions in local parks. NRPA helped secure an additional $2.35 billion per year for five years in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. However, this increase does not fully meet the national need. NRPA and partner organizations are calling for $11 billion per year in funding, reflected in the recently passed INVEST Act, which would help close this funding gap.
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
The Land and Water Conservations Fund (LWCF) has protected our nation’s natural resources while providing recreation opportunities for all people in the U.S. for over 50 years. Thanks to the continued efforts of our advocates, Congress permanently authorized and funded LWCF in 2019 and 2020, respectively, thus establishing this program as the nation’s most important conservation funding stream for public lands.
NRPA supports robust funding through the annual federal appropriations process, including maintaining 40 percent dedicated funding for the state assistance program and investing in the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program, a competitive grant program that funds urban parks.
Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development administers The Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). These grants support local community activities including neighborhood revitalization, economic development, and improvement of community facilities, such as parks and recreation infrastructure. Historically, this program has provided up to $100 million annually for park and recreation infrastructure. NRPA supports increased resources for CDBG.
Active transportation refers to human-propelled modes of transportation like walking or cycling. Multi-modal transportations systems like walking to a subway make communities more accessible, people healthier, and environments cleaner by reducing pollution and the heat island effect. Active transportation systems can be particularly beneficial to Black, Brown, and low-income communities, which have often borne the brunt of pollution.
NRPA supports providing resources to local communities to expand public greenways that build networks of sidewalks, bike lanes and paths, investing in the accessibility and health of local communities. We call upon Congress to protect and maintain programs that connect communities, make streets safer, and promote healthy modes of transportation.
NRPA urges Congress to support the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), including the Recreational Trails Program and Safe Routes to Schools Program. Combined, these programs provide approximately $800 million annually for bike and pedestrian projects and safety in local communities. NRPA also supports financing through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, which provides low-cost loans that may be used for trail and active transportation networks.
Health and Wellness
Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR)
Millions of children and their families depend on federal nutrition programs to stave off hunger and food insecurity. Outside of schools, park and recreation agencies are the largest public provider of healthy meals and snacks to children. We firmly believe that kids should be having fun over the summer, not worrying about where their next meal is coming from.
Congress funds federal child nutrition programs, including the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), through the Child Nutrition Act (CAN), which is reauthorized every five years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers these programs and reimburses after-school and summer meal providers for the implementation of these programs.
The current CAN authorization — the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 — expired in 2015, but the feeding programs continue to operate under level, or static, funding. As Congress considers updating this legislation, NRPA supports investing in vital federal programs that reduce childhood food insecurity and strengthen the resiliency of families. Specific improvements that NRPA supports include:
- Reduce the area-eligibility threshold from 50 percent of children eligible for free and reduced-price lunch to 40 percent.
- Allow for sites to serve up to three meals during the summer and on weekends if children are participating in all-day programming.
- Provide grants for innovative transportation solutions and mobile meal services to overcome logistical hurdles of getting food to children, particularly in rural areas.
- Recognize the benefits of congregate meals served on-site with enriching programming and access to “at least one caring adult.”
- Allow local government agencies and non-profit organizations to utilize the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) year-round, simplifying administration and ensuring higher reimbursement rates year-round.
Chronic Disease Prevention and Management
NRPA, with the support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), disseminates arthritis-appropriate evidence-based physical activity programs to improve the quality of life among people with arthritis and contribute to reductions in both arthritis-related medical costs and lost earnings.
Out-of-School Time Programming
The 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) program supports the establishment of local community-based educational programs for children in out-of-school time settings, particularly for low-income areas. Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, 21st CCLC is the only federal grant program that supports summer, before-school, and afterschool learning programs, serving nearly 2 million youth through federal grants to state education agencies.
Park and recreation agencies provide safe places for kids when they are not in school, making them one of the leading providers of childcare in our nation. 84 percent offer summer camps; 63 percent offer programming targeted specifically to teens; 55 percent offer after-school programming; and over 50 percent offer out-of-school time Science, Technology, Engineering and Math activities that focus on the environment and project-based learning. These programs provide low-income households with accessible, affordable and safe spaces for their children to learn, have fun and grow.
Youth Workforce Development Act (YWDA)
As one of the largest first-time employers, parks and recreation provides exposure to the field and first-time jobs to many youth and young adults. NRPA supports workforce development resources that provide agencies with the support they need to ensure these programs benefit all community members, while building a sustainable workforce and communities for the future.
NRPA is a supporter of the proposed Youth Workforce Readiness Act (YWRA), which establishes a competitive grant through the Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The YWRA would provide eligible national, youth-serving out-of-school time organizations with the funding to support local affiliates to provide programs focused on four overarching pillars that support youth workforce readiness. These pillars include:
- Essential-Skill Development: supporting social-emotional development through every developmental stage in both formal and informal learning experiences.
- Career Exposure: targeted programming through community business partnerships, providing discovery opportunities, career assessments, planning, and insights into both traditional and non-traditional career fields.
- Employability and Certification: opportunities including interviewing, resume writing, financial literacy and certifications in specific areas that will help youth land their first job.
- Work-Based Learning: opportunities to apply skills in real-life, hands-on work experiences through local community business partnerships.
Additionally, the legislation re-establishes Youth Councils to work in coordination with local workforce boards providing expertise in youth policy.
Substance Use Disorder
The CDC Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program is the nation’s leading effort to mobilize communities to prevent and reduce substance use among youth. The program provides grants to over 700 community coalitions to strengthen the infrastructure among local partners to create and sustain a reduction in youth substance use.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) within the U.S. Department of Justice administers a federally funded Youth Mentoring Grant Program. The Youth Mentoring Grant Program is a critical support for young people who are at-risk of entering the juvenile justice system. A prevention and intervention strategy, the program identifies young people at times when they are the most likely to need support, helping hundreds of thousands of youth achieve positive academic, professional, and personal outcomes and deterring negative and risky behaviors, including drug abuse.
Park and recreation agencies deliver critical out-of-school time programming that helps local children deal with the many challenges of growing up, with 34 percent of agencies focusing their programming on youth mentoring and 18 percent of agencies focusing their programming on substance use prevention. Learn more about OJJDP’s Youth Mentoring Grant Program.