Lawmakers give first approvals to pandemic relief spending

Lawmakers give first approvals to pandemic relief spending

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a plan to use $772 million in pandemic relief funds on a mix of broadband expansion, water and sewer projects and health care reimbursements.

The Alabama House of Representatives and the Alabama Senate approved the bills with only one dissenting vote in each chamber. The bills now move to the other respective chamber for final approval.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey called lawmakers into special session on how to spend the $580 million remaining from the state’s first $1.1 billion installment, as well as $191 million allocated through the America Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund.

The proposed spending plan would use almost 36% of the money, about $276 million on broadband expansion.

It would also use about $225 million on water and sewer projects and provide $146 million, to health care providers, including hospitals and nursing homes.

The proposal so far has broad support from Republicans and Democrats. But it comes after Alabama faced criticism last year for using $400 million for prison construction.

The massive $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is providing aid to state and local governments to shore up finances, pay pandemic-related costs and invest in longer-term projects to strengthen communities.