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Gov. Kay Ivey calls special session of Alabama Legislature to address pandemic relief funds

Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday officially called for a special session of the Alabama Legislature to address the appropriation of federal COVID-19 pandemic relief funds.

The special session, beginning Wednesday, will see lawmakers take up debate on the allocation of more than $772 million from the state’s portion of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars.

The state legislature last week began its 2022 regular legislative session. By placing the regular session on hold and transitioning into a special session, the legislature may only take up bills addressing the outlined priorities in the governor’s proclamation.

In announcing her call for a special session, Ivey asserted that the state would aim to appropriate pandemic relief funding in a responsible manner.

“While states like Alabama are making record economic comebacks, Congress and the Biden White House are wanting our country to spend more and more federal dollars, and now we are tasked with allocating the American Rescue Plan Act funds,” stated Ivey. “I have made clear, that unlike Washington, D.C., Alabama will be wise with these one-time, federal dollars.”

The governor outlined some of the priorities her administration deemed to be of importance that the legislature will be tasked with addressing.

“I again urge the members of the Legislature to direct these funds to meet some of Alabama’s biggest challenges like statewide broadband connectivity, water and sewer infrastructure, as well as investing funds in our hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers,” Ivey added. “We must be smart with these one-time, federal dollars by wisely investing – not just casually spending them. This is not free money.”

In her proclamation, Ivey provided the legislature with the amount of funding that lawmakers will be able to appropriate from the state’s three funds containing ARPA dollars.

The amount of ARPA funding that may be allocated from each state fund is as follows:

  • Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund: $443,343,362.50
  • Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Revenue Replacement Fund: $136,796,346.00
  • Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund: $191,887,857.00

Regarding the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund, lawmakers may appropriate funding toward assisting entities that deliver pandemic-related health care services. Funds may also be appropriated toward broadband expansion, water and sewer infrastructure, and the replenishment of the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund. Additionally, state agencies may be reimbursed for administrative costs incurred while allocating the funds.

From the State Fiscal Recovery Revenue Replacement Fund, Ivey directed lawmakers to utilize funding toward supporting broadband expansion, telemedicine expansion, COVID-19 health care services, rural hospitals, emergency response providers, and the reimbursement of county jails for housing inmates during a specified 2021 timeframe.

Concerning the Capital Projects Fund, dollars may be allocated to broadband and similar services related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers also have the ability to appropriate funding investments in capital assets for technology infrastructure relating to work, education and access to other vital services.

As previously reported by Yellowhammer News, lawmakers have formed a draft plan outlining potential dollar amounts that could be directed toward specific priorities. A breakdown of the draft’s specific funding proposals can be seen here.

The plan, which was subject to change, called for allocating $242 million for broadband expansion. The issue is atop the list of priorities for the legislature as the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority is coordinating with state leadership to deploy high-speed internet services to unserved areas of the state.

Receiving the second-highest amount of funding under the proposal was water and sewer infrastructure projects at $120 million.

Yellowhammer News will continue to monitor developments and provide coverage of the upcoming special session.

UPDATE 5:20 p.m.:

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) released a statement commending Ivey for her special session call and struck an optimistic tone over the legislature’s approach in allocating federal pandemic relief funds.

“I applaud the Governor for taking this step and making the appropriation of ARPA funds a top priority,” stated Reed. “Legislative leadership has been actively engaged in discussions with the governor’s office on the possibility of this special session, and we think this is the best way forward to ensure that the funds are allocated in the most impactful and expeditious manner possible. I am confident my colleagues will advance a fiscally responsible plan that ultimately sees these significant funds invested in a way that aids pandemic recovery but also benefits generations of Alabamians to come.”

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL