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State leaders disagree on American Rescue Plan fund use

A former deputy tax collector in Rankin County was arrested on an embezzlement charge.
A former deputy tax collector in Rankin County was arrested on an embezzlement charge.(AP)
Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 3:35 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - As the pandemic lasts, federal dollars will still be sent to the state from the American Rescue Plan fund.

Alabama made headlines after legislators voted during the first special session of the year to allocate $400 million from the fund to fix the state’s prison infrastructure.

Calling out the state with red flags, state Rep. Chris England tweeted Monday, “$400 million of it will be spent on building prisons while the other $40 million will be spent on hospitals.”

Alabama’s finance director, Bill Poole, said in response to the tweet that the state is within its legal limits on using the money.

“The treasury guidance is clear. The federal law is clear. We’ve complied with every component of it,” said Poole. “Unless the statute unless the law or the guidance changes, I think we’re a very solid foundation. And I don’t think there’s really any dispute to that regard.”

According to the state coronavirus relief budget, since the pandemic began, a little over $78 million has been spent on corrections while hospitals and health care together is right under that at $72 million.

“There are a number of eligible uses for the ARPA funds. A lot of those are very, very important for the future of the state, both on the forward-looking basis, but also as we continue to kind of deal with the effects of COVID,” said Poole.

Poole said it will be up to legislators to figure out how the rest is spent

“The legislature will reconvene in January, and I would anticipate will appropriate the balance of the first half of the federal funds,” said Poole.

Poole said the rest of the rescue plan money will be available next summer.

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