MONTGOMERY — Tuesday, during her State of the State address, Gov. Kay Ivey announced the much-anticipated special session within the regular session to distribute more than $1 billion granted to the state through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Following the speech, State Finance Director Bill Poole spoke to 1819 News about the Governor's office's outlook on the process as it heads to the legislature.
"We had ARPA-one pass last year, and I hope this will align with a lot of those primary objectives," he said. "The Governor spoke about those tonight. We need to expand broadband access in the state for all of the reasons that are self-apparent. We know we need to improve water and sewer infrastructure while we have an opportunity to do that. Those are difficult projects, often hard for local governments to afford, so matching their dollars to extend those projects further. Focusing on health care and other aspects, as well."
"The Governor feels good about it," Poole added. "Now, the legislature will certainly take that up in short order."
Last week, 1819 News obtained a draft copy of the ARPA bill, which emphasized healthcare reimbursements, broadband and water and sewer infrastructure.
Poole told 1819 News that based on the state's handling of the first round of the ARPA funding, he anticipated the state's bureaucracy would be up for the task in this go-around.
"It is a tall task," he said. "There's no reason not to recognize that, but if you look at ARPA-one, the state-administered the funds very efficiently, moved the funding out pretty quickly. In the case of the infrastructure projects – broadband, water, sewer – all of those projects have been awarded. That takes a little time for those projects to come out of the ground. They have to be bid, bid via public bid laws. They have to have contracts, supplies on the ground. So we have the experience of round one. The state had some of the lowest administrative costs in the country administrating these funds. We have had no negative audit findings."
"The objective is to satisfy the legislative intent, issue the funds out according to that intent in an efficient and effective process so it can benefit the citizens," Poole continued. "But these are one-time funds. This is the last ARPA round. This will be it, so it's important that the legislature gets it right. The Governor mentioned it is not free money. The bill is going to come due. Can we make good investments that generate a return to benefit our state as those bills come due, particularly on the federal level?"
Jeff Poor is the executive editor of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.