Discussions on a potential special session to decide how the state will spend its remaining federal pandemic relief funds, totaling over $1.5 billion, are taking place between leaders in the Alabama Statehouse and the Governor’s Office, a source confirmed.
This possible special session could be called as early as the first month of the regular legislative session, the source said, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday. However, the discussions remain tentative.
“Unless the governor’s got something she’s decided to do, there’s nothing that has been set in stone,” the source said in an interview with APR on Monday. “It has been a conversation.”
Statehouse officials are expected to meet with Gov. Kay Ivey and her office Wednesday to continue discussions.
In a statement Sunday, the governor’s Office said the allocation of the remaining ARPA funds remains a high priority for the governor.
“[Ivey] has stressed time and again that we need to invest this one-time money, not just casually spend it,” the office said. “Gov. Ivey will continue having conversations with the Legislature who is ultimately tasked with allocating these funds. The sooner these dollars reach the people of our state, the better.”
Close to $2.1 billion in federal pandemic relief funds was earmarked for Alabama from the American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Joe Biden in March of 2021. The state received its initial half, roughly $1.06 billion, in June of 2021. The remaining relief funds are expected to be received this summer.
In September, Ivey convened a special legislative session on prison construction and reform, culminating in a multi-million dollar prison construction package that used $400 million from the state’s allotted ARPA money as funds for prison construction. The tendentious decision drew the ire of many during the session, with critics feeling new prisons would not alone address the concerns of inhumane conditions and unconstitutional treatment in Alabama correctional facilities, outlined in a U.S. Department of Justice complaint filed in 2019.
The session also produced an $80 million injection of ARPA funds to Alabama hospitals and nursing homes, bringing the remaining funds available for allocation during the regular legislative session to around $580 million.