Over the last week, the Alabama Legislature has been deliberating the appropriation of the last $1 billion in federal COVID-19 relief from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Our priorities are investing in sewer and water infrastructure, broadband internet expansion, and supporting hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers across the state.
Our state’s infrastructure, for broadband, water and sewer, is where we are looking to allocate the largest sum of ARPA Funds — $660 million. This specific focus on critical infrastructure improvements will impact the livelihood of Alabamians in rural and metropolitan areas alike for decades to come. Our goal is to use these one-time funds as an investment for the people of Alabama by supporting areas that will see a tangible difference in the future.
Improving Alabamians’ access to clean water and sewer systems is a huge focus for legislators. Through grants and other programs, high-need projects will be identified by the Department of Environmental Management with priority given to counties that did not have funding approved in 2022.
In our 21st century world, it is also essential that we provide our citizens with expanded broadband connectivity. This funding can be used to facilitate telemedicine delivery systems to increase and improve access to healthcare.
We’re also allocating $339 million to support the people and programs that were financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals, nursing homes, veterans’ hospitals, and mental health services continue to face substantial negative economic impact, and these funds can be used to help respond to and offset these challenges.
Other programs eligible for $55 million in funding include those that service food banks, child-welfare, long-term housing, victims of domestic violence, mental health disorders and senior citizens.
Our responsibility as state legislators is to advocate for and represent our communities to the best of our ability. While funding conversations can become controversial as leaders disagree over where and to whom monies go, I am confident that we all share a vision of making Alabama a better place for all. During this special session dedicated to allocating ARPA funds, we’ve had the opportunity to discuss, listen, and work together towards this common goal.