Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL05) announced that he has cosponsored H.R. 5735, Congressman Dusty Johnson (R-South Dakota) and Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux’s (D-GA07) bill, the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act.

If enacted, the bill would make various infrastructure investments eligible for payment with unspent COVID-19 relief funds. The U.S. Senate recently unanimously passed companion legislation.

Under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the original CARES Act relief package, Congress provided some flexibility for how funds could be spent, but most funds were not able to be used for infrastructure projects. This bill gives state and local officials additional flexibility and time to responsibly spend the remaining COVID-19 relief dollars.

If enacted, this legislation would allow Alabama to use unspent coronavirus relief funds on much-needed infrastructure projects such as the I-10 Bridge. H.R. 5735 has 144 House cosponsors.

“I support giving states the flexibility to spend coronavirus funds as they see fit. State and local elected officials, not federal government bureaucrats, know what their communities need most,” Brooks said. “Alabama has several desperately-needed infrastructure projects, such as the I-10 Bridge in the Mobile Bay area, that are stalled due to a lack of funding. This bill could free up funds that would jumpstart those important projects.”

The state has already spent $400 million of ARPA funds as a down payment on two new mega prisons. The state has also appropriated $80 million as relief for Alabama’s hospitals and nursing homes.

The legislature is beginning a special session on Wednesday for appropriating the remaining ARPA dollars.

The state will receive a second tranch of ARPA dollars in May or June ($1,060,139,708).

The Alabama Department of Transportation has identified the I-10 bridge connecting Baldwin and Mobile Counties as one of the state’s most pressing infrastructure needs. Currently, I-10 goes into a tunnel under the shipping channel. The tunnels have become a choke point for traffic. An ALDOT effort to build an incredibly expensive bridge by contracting with a private consortium that would charge tolls was rejected after Gulf Coast residents objected to paying tolls just to save five to fifteen minutes a day in commuting time. ALDOT and local metropolitan planning organizations are working on a new bridge plan, but have yet to release a concrete proposal or a start date for construction. The I-10 bridge was not included in the $1 trillion Build Back Better Infrastructure bill that passed Congress in late 2021.

Brooks is in his sixth term representing Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. He is a candidate for U.S. Senate along with former Business Council of Alabama President and CEO Katie Britt, veteran and businessman Mike Durant, and Karla Dupriest.

The Republican primary is May 24.

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