The Alabama House of Representative approved a bill this week that would allocate $80 million in federal COVID relief money to nursing homes and hospitals in the state.
The funds would be used to cover the costs of the pandemic that have left some rural hospitals “struggling to keep the doors open,” according to Sen. Billy Beasley (D-Clayton), who advocated for spending some of the funds on hospitals in dire straits after a surge in COVID cases over the summer and fall.
The funds would be pulled from the $2.1 billion Alabama was given by the American Rescue Plan, approved in March. It would be the second allocation of funds from the relief plan, after $400 million was allocated earlier this year to build two new prisons. That decision was controversial, as Alabama’s prisons had the highest COVID-19 death rates in the country, and prison guards were only required to wear masks while working as late as this past August.
The new bill would allocate $80 million to hospitals and nursing homes around the state, with the help of the Alabama Hospital Association and the Alabama Nursing Homes Association.
Kirk Fulford, Deputy Director of the Alabama Legislative Services Agency, presented a report on the status of the American Rescue Plan funds. He reminded the Alabama Senate Finance and Taxation Committee that $1.7 billion of the federal funds are to be distributed to local municipalities and is not under the control of the state legislature.
The local funds, prison building costs, $48 million in budget reserve funds being allocated, and the $80 million being disbursed to nursing homes and hospitals are all part of an ongoing effort to distribute the federal funds.
Fulford pointed out that the funds coming from Washington DC are to be obligated by December 2024, and spent by December 2026. Fulford recommends the money be allocated toward water and sewer infrastructure, and to replace public sector money lost due to the pandemic, calling these focuses “really key.”
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: AL REPORTER
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