Over the past few months, Congress has approved an unprecedented amount of federal funding to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic and stimulate the economy. How are these funds being used and what is still available for businesses?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act expanded worker protections and provided additional resources for the healthcare sector, while the $2 trillion CARES Act and the $483 billion Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act doled out trillions for individuals and to keep businesses afloat. The new House Democratic proposal calls for another $3 trillion for state and local governments, the healthcare system and additional stimulus checks for individuals, and, while it’s just a starting point for negotiations, it’s safe to assume more federal assistance is coming.

While we’ve heard about the top line programs these bills provide for – paycheck protection, small business loans and grants, and expanded COVID-19 testing – there are still billions on the table, and a savvy business will be able to identify funding sources and opportunities to provide new resources and solutions in their communities during this once-in-a-lifetime response. Those in the healthcare sector may look for ways to improve the delivery of services in a crisis; those in cybersecurity will find opportunities to protect the newly remote federal workforce; and those in tech might see a chance to help close the digital divide or better support remote learning in at-risk school districts.

Accessing this federal funding will not be a simple task. Businesses can be strategic by proactively leveraging external communications to identify opportunities and employing a PR strategy to ensure decisionmakers are aware of the value that your business can provide to the community.

Know the Landscape…

The $2.2 trillion CARES Act has billions of federal funding dollars hidden by opaque legislative language, obscure agency funding formulas or complex federal contracting regulations. Businesses should be thinking outside the box when considering their potential value to federal programs. Just because funding sources aren’t immediately identifiable doesn’t mean they don’t exist. For example, $5 billion was established through the CARES Act for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program. This funding can be spent on anything that can be justified as “providing economic development for the community,” such as improving cybersecurity within organizations that support the essential functions of local government or upgrading IT to better support remote K-12 education.

… and Make Sure It Knows You

Accessing federal funding isn’t just a matter of understanding where the money is coming from; it’s about being prepared to position your company to be top of mind among decisionmakers. It’s also about providing further value to your customers, who may also have access to new federal program funds. This goes beyond traditional meet and greets, coalition building, and grant applications. It means strategically telling a story about the problem and how you are uniquely qualified to fix it, then making your name recognizable in the community as a trusted leader, resource and problem solver.

Strong, proactive communication is key to accessing most federal funding opportunities. It helps lay the groundwork for improving relationships with decisionmakers and sharing your story with target audiences. From social media campaigns and speaking opportunities to op-eds and engaging the press, strategic messaging helps shape or shift the conversation around how your organization is best suited to solve the problem at hand and why it is deserving of precious federal resources.

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RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm with a nationwide presence and additional global reach via membership in the Worldcom Public Relations Group. We provide strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, public sector and healthcare markets.