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House speaker says he supports governor’s CARES Act plan

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon.

Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said Friday that he supports Gov. Kay Ivey’s proposed executive amendment, which would appropriate federal CARES Act funds for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the speaker’s support, the governor’s amendment has a better chance of passing Alabama’s House of Representatives — whether the same will be true in the Senate is unclear.

“Our goal throughout the budgeting process has been to ensure that Alabama’s share of the federal CARES Act dollars are appropriated in a manner that is open, transparent, and serves the greatest public good,” McCutcheon said in a statement. “I believe that Gov. Ivey’s proposed executive amendment checks all of those boxes.”

The governor and GOP members of the state’s Legislature have been in a public dispute over how and when to spend the $1.9 billion in federal funding provided to Alabama in the federal CARES Act.

The governor on Thursday blocked the legislation that would have limited her ability to quickly distribute the money. If the legislation had been signed into law, it would have required another special session of the Legislature for all of the federal funds to be appropriated through the legislative process.

Ivey has said she wants the emergency funds to be appropriated immediately and through a public and transparent process so the money can get to agencies and Alabamians who need it most. Her executive amendment Thursday effectively blocked the legislation and sent it back to the Legislature with proposed changes.

If the money is not appropriated and spent by the end of the calendar year, it would be reclaimed by the federal government, and Alabama could lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Her amendment would appropriate nearly all of the CARES Act funds the state received immediately. It would be used for the following purposes, according to Ivey’s amendment:

  • Up to $300 million to reimburse state agencies for COVID-19 expenditures
  • Up to $250 million to reimburse local governments for COVID-19 expenditures
  • Up to $250 million to “support the delivery of healthcare and related services to citizens of Alabama related to” COVID-19
  • Up to $300 million to support citizens, businesses and non-profit and faith-based organizations impacted by COVID-19
  • Up to $53 million for reimbursement of equipment and infrastructure necessary for remote work and public access to functions of state government impacted by COVID-19
  • Up to $300 million for technology and infrastructure for remote instruction and learning
  • Up to $200 million for the Department of Corrections to address COVID-19
  • Up to $10 million for courts to ensure access during COVID-19
  • Up to $5 million to reimburse the State General Fund for previous appropriations to the Alabama Department of Public Health
  • The remaining $118 million could be used for any lawful purpose in line with federal guidance

Both the House and Senate must take up the amendment Monday, the last day of this year’s session, and decide whether to make the changes Ivey proposed. The Legislature could also override Ivey’s amendment and pass the legislation directly into law.

McCutcheon said Friday that he hopes members of the House will be amenable to the amendment.

“It also embraces the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches that is outlined in the 1901 Constitution,” McCutcheon said. “Combatting COVID-19 and repairing the damage it has caused within our state will require the governor and the Legislature to work in a unified and cooperative manner, and for that reason, I am hopeful that our members will be amenable to this amendment.”

The Senate will also need to approve the changes. Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, has not said whether he supports the governor’s amendment.

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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