UPDATE: Alabama Lawmakers Approve Plan for $1 Billion in Pandemic Funds


BY KIM CHANDLER Associated Press

Alabama lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to a plan to use $1 billion in federal pandemic relief funds on a mix of water and sewer infrastructure, broadband expansion and health care reimbursements.

The Alabama Senate voted 29-3 to approve the House-passed bill after adding language to allow local governments to use a portion of the water and sewer funds for storm water projects to combat urban flooding. The House agreed to go along with Senate changes.

Republican Sen. Greg Albritton, who handled the bill in the Senate, said there were many requests on how to use the money but that lawmakers tried to focus the largest amounts on those aspects “that would make the greatest difference.”

“We’re trying our best to invest in Alabama’s future, and I think we’ve done a fairly good job,” Albritton said after the vote.

Gov. Kay Ivey last week called lawmakers into special session to allocate the state’s remaining $1.06 billion sent from the federal American Rescue Plan — the sweeping relief plan approved by Congress to help the country climb out of the coronavirus crisis.

Alabama hospitals had sought $300 million in reimbursements. Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said hospitals faced heavy financial losses as expenses roses during the pandemic and because of the high number of patients without health insurance. Albritton said the $100 million is what the “consensus feels like we can do.”

The proposed spending plan would allocate:

— $339 million for health care costs, including $100 million to reimburse hospitals for pandemic-related expenses, $100 million to reimburse nursing homes and $25 million to support mental health programs and services.

— $400 million for water and sewer infrastructure projects, including $195 million for high-need projects, $200 million for matching funds for public water and sewer systems, and $5 million for septic systems in the Black Belt region.

— $260 million for improvement and expansion of broadband network access.

— $55 million for projects that address economic impacts of the pandemic. The legislation says the Department of Finance may distribute the money for a wide range of needs such as food banks, long-term housing and summer learning programs for children.

The spending plan directs pots of money to state agencies, such as the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, and other entities to distribute for the allotted purposes.

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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