OKLAHOMA CITY - A joint legislative committee will help prioritize proposals for state government’s share of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
Under federal law, ARPA funds for state governments are to be used only to respond to the public health emergency and negative economic effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Such uses can include payments to state agencies, nonprofits, industry and households. They can also include investments in public infrastructure.
Oklahoma’s share of ARPA funds includes up to $1.9 billion for state government. The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding will focus on state government’s share of the funds.
The bipartisan joint committee will receive and evaluate proposals for use of the funds. An organizational meeting will be held soon to establish the committee’s processes and timelines for completing its work. The committee will meet publicly.
House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, each appointed 12 members of their chambers to the 24-member committee.
“Collaboration between the legislative and executive branches will produce the best, most appropriate use for these limited, one-time funds,” McCall said. “This is an opportunity to address needs exposed by the pandemic and support economic recovery without growing state government’s financial obligations. House members look forward to reviewing focused proposals that meet the intent of the federal legislation.”
ARPA became law in March. Funds will be delivered to states in two allocations over two years.
“Oklahoma is in a strong position now thanks to forward-thinking action taken by the Legislature and governor last year at the outset of the pandemic,” Treat said. “The federal government is providing a significant amount of one-time funds through the American Rescue Plan, which gives us the opportunity to further strengthen Oklahoma’s position through targeted investments in projects across the state. The collaboration between the legislative and executive branches is the best way for us to ensure these funds are used to move our state move forward, while also ensuring that we maximize these one-time federal monies without weighing ourselves down with future obligations.”
The committee will forward its recommendations to a group of six legislators and five executive branch officials who will formally score and send high-scoring priorities to Gov. Kevin Stitt, who will make final allocation of funds.
“I look forward to working with the legislative committee to invest in making Oklahoma a Top Ten state,” Stitt said. “These funds are an opportunity for us to improve our infrastructure, make sure Oklahoma’s workforce can better compete in the global economy and help improve the health and lives of Oklahomans.”
State law prohibits state agencies from using federal pandemic relief funds in ways that grow the need for future state dollars once federal funds are spent. The prohibition became law this session under House Bill 2932, by McCall and Treat. The prohibition is retroactive to prior pandemic relief funds, including Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security Act (CARES) funds, and prospective to future federal pandemic relief funds beyond ARPA.
Cities and counties, which are not covered by HB 2932, will receive their share of ARPA funding for use at the discretion of local officials in compliance with federal law. Oklahoma’s share of ARPA funds includes $1.9 billion for state government and $1.3 billion for local, city and county governments.
Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding