September 21, 2022
The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding on Tuesday advanced a comprehensive slate of projects to the full Legislature for consideration in an upcoming special session.
The committee’s approvals, combined with previously approved projects, resulted in recommendation of over 60 projects totaling nearly all of Oklahoma state government’s $1.87 billion share of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.
“The effort put into this process by members of our working groups and the joint committee cannot be understated,” said Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding. “There were a lot of late nights and early mornings as we worked through the over 1,400 submissions to decide which projects would benefit the most people in our state. I am confident that the projects advanced by the joint committee will have an immediate impact in areas that need assistance and we will see the dividends both now and in the future.”
Ultimately, the committee recommended proceeding with projects totaling about 10% of the $18 billion in requests contained in more than 1,400 submissions made through a public portal that was open from fall 2021 to March 2022.
“I applaud the members of the Senate and House who have undertaken this exhaustive process,” said Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee. “The joint committee has conducted itself in a transparent manner, in the best interest of the public. Whether it’s ensuring clean water for communities, undertaking the colossal broadband project or assisting those in need of mental health services these are all areas that we have prioritized and funded. These are projects that will improve the lives of Oklahomans for decades to come.”
For more than a year, subject matter working groups evaluated proposals by eligibility under federal law and priorities established by the joint committee in 2021. All working group recommendations were advanced by joint committee to the full Legislature.
“I am proud of the work that was done by all stakeholders during this lengthy process as the joint committee has recommended over 60 projects, out of over 1,400, for consideration by the Legislature,” said Speaker Pro Tempore Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow. “We heard from the public, industry representatives and others as the working groups carefully decided which projects to advance. I am particularly proud that all areas of the state, both rural and urban, are receiving equal benefit with major projects. It is my hope that the results of this process will provide a benefit to our state for generations to come.”
Program areas and specific projects approved by the joint committee will now be placed into appropriations bills for consideration when the Legislature reconvenes the Second Extraordinary Session of the 58th Oklahoma Legislature, which was called for the purpose of evaluating ARPA projects advanced by the joint committee and matters of statewide economic development.
“The proposed projects address critical, immediate needs that were being unmet because of the pandemic,” said Sen. Chuck Hall, R-Perry. “In addition to the positive, transformational changes this will have on the state, there is built in oversight, so Oklahomans can rest assured the money is going to go where it is meant to. Members of the legislature should be proud of this process and deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the way it was handled.”
Projects approved by the joint committee, both Tuesday and previously, include, among others:
Burns Flat Spaceport – $4.25 million for water and broadband needs for the space port and surrounding community.
Lake Lugert – $25 million to help finish out the closed lines that are needed to help mitigate water loss from the current open lines.
The House of Representatives will reconvene the Second Extraordinary Session of the 58th Legislature from Sept. 28 to 30 for consideration of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and other funding advanced by the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding.
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