HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The Alabama Legislature is expected to resume its special session Tuesday. Governor Kay Ivey called the session so lawmakers could decide how to spend $1.06 billion dollars in American Rescue Plan Act money sent to the state by the federal government.
A proposed spending measure was passed out by a House committee last week. The full House could take the measure up on Tuesday.
Huntsville-area Alabama Rep. Rex Reynolds chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. He said the State of Alabama has been able to weather the economic pressures of COVID-19, but there is a number of areas where the money can help.
“Certainly with this one-time funding coming down, we want to use it mainly for infrastructure, to help stand up our hospitals and our nursing homes,” Reynolds said. “As the Governor said back during her inauguration speech about investing today for a better tomorrow. So if that helps some of our rural hospitals survive things we’ve gone through since 2019, then these one-time allocations are very worthwhile.”
Ivey called for the special session during last week’s State of the State speech.
The regular legislative session is set to begin once special session spending decisions are resolved. And things could move quickly.
Reynolds expects debate and a floor vote on the House bill Tuesday and the Senate to get the measure Wednesday for committee work. Reynolds said it could reach the Senate floor for a vote Thursday.
Looking at the rescue plan act spending proposal, it includes $660 million – for drinking water, sewer, and broadband projects.
“We’re asking the body to support $660 million total, to both water and sewer projects and broadband,” Reynolds said. “It’s split up $260 million broadband, $400 million to water and sewer. Certainly this creates jobs, the need to purchase materials so it’s good for Alabama’s economy.”
There is $339 million proposed to support an array of health care and related services, including nursing homes, hospitals, veterans and mental health care.
“Just as we tried to do last year with our hospitals and nursing homes, just a huge amount of additional expenses that they both had to care for those through the covid times,” Reynolds said. “That’s additional nursing, medical staff, supplies, it just took a huge toll on them. And the money we are giving them, even this time, will not make up for all the additional that they spent throughout that time. For our veterans’ hospitals, $5 million isolated for that. We’ve to $9 million
for telemedicine. Again, trying to put Alabamians in a better place that otherwise don’t have access to health care. We’ve got $20 million in there for a clinical research program. And that’s going through Southern Research, down in Birmingham. We gave them some $45 million last year. They’re just doing great work. Again, their research, this funding will be reaching every county in Alabama. But it’s about finding those that don’t otherwise, may not, have access to a clinical trial or clinical drugs.”
There is also $55 million slated for — grants for programs and services related to the negative impacts of COVID-19. That includes money for food and housing assistance, women’s shelters, child welfare protection and seniors.
“Our negative impact category, that $55 million, that’s about boots on the ground programs,” Reynolds said. “That’s programs that have fed our kids and supported our senior citizens. All of that will go through a grant process through ADECA. That’s what many of my colleagues said early on, when we began working on this December. They said, ‘We want to see programs in our community get assistance from this one-time money.’”
The legislature is currently set to begin its regular session on March 21st.