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ARPA bill passes committee hurdle

The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee approved legislation Thursday to appropriate more than $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Gov. Kay Ivey called a special session to isolate the last portion of ARPA funds from spending talks around the two other state budgets, which are in surplus, but poised for an 8.4% increase.

Committee Chair Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville) led the meeting to a vote advancing HB1 after discussion from Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Pelham) and Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville).

Here are the major destinations for funds as outlined by HB1:

Public Health ($339.1 million)

  • $100 million to reimburse hospitals for eligible COVID-19 expenses
  • $100 million to reimburse nursing homes for eligible COVID-19 expenses
  • Up to $5 million to reimburse veterans’ hospitals for eligible COVID-19 expenses
  • Up to $40 million to reimburse the State Employees’ Insurance Board
  • Up to $40 million for the Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance Board
  • Up to $25 million to support mental health programs and services
  • Up to $9 million to facilitate the expansion and use of telemedicine
  • Up to $20 million for healthcare research and access to personalized medicine

Infrastructure ($660 million)

  • $400 million for water and sewer infrastructure projects
  • $260 million for broadband expansion

After receiving this stamp of approval in committee today, HB1 is expected to be on the house floor Tuesday and in the senate as soon as next Thursday.

Lawmakers in both houses say this process has been the product of strict spending guidelines and a collaboration between agencies.

“We can’t spend this money on just anything,” said Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville). “(U.S. Department of the) Treasury has given us guidelines as to what we can spend this on.”

In her address Tuesday night, Ivey encouraged the Legislature to not think of the funds as “free money” — and underscored the opportunity to make a generational impact on the state.

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