The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding on Tuesday advanced the first slate of projects for consideration in the Legislature's upcoming special session on American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.
The six ARPA requests that will now be considered by the full Legislature are:
- Healthcare Workforce – $15 million to complete the new Northeastern State University School of Optometry, to be be coupled with $18 million the university has already raised.
- Nursing Workforce – $8.8 million in projects addressing the nursing workforce shortage through the Career Technology Center system. Combined with previous ARPA allotments, a targeted investment of $64 million will address the nursing shortage and produce over 2,500 additional licensed and trained healthcare workers within the next five years.
- Nursing Workforce – $250,000 for the Health Workforce Training Commission to administer nursing workforce programs.
- Nonprofit Recovery Program – $25 million grant pool for eligible nonprofits, with priority given to nonprofits that applied for ARPA funds.
- Behavioral Health – $39.4 million to complete the Oklahoma Children's Hospital Behavioral Health Center, addressing the critical need for pediatric behavioral health services in Oklahoma.
- Broadband – $500,000 to provide preliminary administrative support to open the State Broadband Office, to be reimbursed by administrative allowances in other federal funds once accessed.
The projects will be considered Monday, June 13 during a convening of the Second Extraordinary Session of the 58th Oklahoma Legislature, which was called for the purpose of evaluating ARPA projects advanced by the joint committee.
“The Legislature is committed to a deliberate, transparent process and will continue working through the interim to appropriate funds to projects serving all Oklahomans," said Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, House co-chair of the joint committee. "From start to finish, we will make sure the funds go to projects benefitting as many Oklahomans as possible, and the legislative process is the proper way to make that happen."
Oklahoma took a unique approach to the allotted ARPA discretionary dollars by opening a public portal last year allowing any Oklahoman to submit requests for a share of state government's $1.8 billion in ARPA funding. In the time the portal was open, more than 1,400 submissions totaling in excess of $18 billion were received.
“There is a lot of work ahead for the Legislature as we work to make targeted and transformational investments with these one-time funds in areas such as broadband, behavioral health, workforce, water and many others," said Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, Senate co-chair of the joint committee. "The effect of the investments we make now will be felt far into the future, and the joint committee is committed to doing our due diligence to make sure all approved projects will benefit our state now and in the future."
Throughout the summer and fall, subject matter working groups will continue to consider objectives to be achieved for each of the priority areas established by the joint committee, program areas to advance specific outcomes, and potential projects to achieve the objectives. The working groups will make recommendations to the joint committee for specific projects to be funded. Program areas and specific projects approved by the joint committee will be placed into appropriations bills for consideration by the Legislature during the special session.
ARPA projects approved during regular session included $75 million in water infrastructure grants, $50 million for higher education nursing programs, $4.5 million for medical professional training, $2 million for broadband mapping, $365,000 for a broadband technician training program, $7.5 million for pediatric emergency room behavioral health needs, and $634,000 for Career Tech nursing programs.
Contact: John Estus
Office of House Speaker Charles McCall
Capitol: (405) 557-7439
Cell: (405) 706-0084
Contact: Jeff Peters
Office of President Pro Tempore Greg Treat
Capitol: (405) 521-5632