Broadband internet, water and sewage, and healthcare expansions are all on the docket for Alabama’s upcoming special session.

Gov. Kay Ivey announced on Tuesday that she would be calling the Alabama legislature into a special session to address the appropriation of federal funds. This special session convenes after the regular session had already convened for the year. The regular session will not get underway again until the beginning of February.

The special session was called specifically to address the distribution of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Alabama will receive over $443 million in this round of ARPA funds which can be used for services related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed, the priorities for the legislature will be broadband, water and sewage, and healthcare.

Reed said there has been a measurable effort on behalf of the legislature to ensure the funds are adequately appropriated.

“Our number one priority is the ARPA funds,” Reed said. “We want to make sure that we are dealing with those as the priority.

“We’ve got a good plan moving forward to be able to get these resources active as quickly as we can for the benefit of the people of Alabama.” 

While Reed said the expansion of broadband internet would include increasing speeds for those who already have internet, the priority will be to give internet access to those who currently have none.

“You’ve got some scenarios to where increasing speeds would be very important, certainly in an economic perspective,” Reed said. “Also, my priority is getting internet service to those that don’t have any. That will continue to be a challenge.”

Although healthcare services are slated to receive a significant portion of the funding, there are no plans to address the widespread staffing shortages in Alabama hospitals. Reed said that additional provisions could be made for more traveling nurse pay, similar to the Alabama CARES Act, which distributed grants for hospitals to fund traveling nurses. 

There will be different areas dealt with using the ARPA funds, but Reed assured that there would be further federal aid forthcoming in the months to come and funding from the state budget.

“You’ve got round one of ARPA, then we’re going to have two well-funded budgets for the legislative body to deal with,” Reed said. “Then we’ve got ARPA number two that’s just under $1.1 billion that’s going to be coming probably by [an] August time frame.

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