Category: State of Alabama

State Leaders: Focused Plan Needed for ARPA Money Allocations

The money is coming. But how it will be spent is still an open question.

Alabama leaders have a rare chance to use federal money to make significant improvements to the state’s broadband networks and other infrastructure systems, but leaders need to plan carefully for its spending in order to stay competitive with states that have the same opportunities, Alabama Finance Director Bill Poole told a panel of lawmakers Thursday.

“Every state in this country is going to spend an enormous amount of federal funds on broadband, on water and sewer infrastructure, on health care …,” Poole said during an update on the Alabama Rescue Plan Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, two federal laws that will infuse billions into the state.

Poole said the state’s objective “should recognize that we’re in a competition with other states and we have to take this opportunity of a lifetime to advance further than those other states do in their investments so that, when the dust settles, we’ve improved our competitive position. Read more.

Commission on State’s Pandemic Response Recommends Legislation

MONTGOMERY — Alabama state agencies say they need more flexibility in purchasing during emergencies and the ability to hire essential staff in times of crisis.

Those were among the findings of the Alabama Pandemic Response and Preparedness Commission based on input from various state agencies on how they responded in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission’s final report included recommendations that could become legislation. Read more.

COVID-19, Federal Requirement Increases Alabama Medicaid Enrollment

Alabama’s Medicaid enrollment has continued record growth because of the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing federal requirement that people can’t be removed from the rolls.

But the state also got extra money from the federal government and, for now, the program is costing the state less than it did before. However, at least one lawmaker is concerned costs could begin to rise, and the state is working now on projections for next year’s budget. Read more.

ALDOT Moves Road Money to Admin Fund

The Alabama Department of Transportation recently moved $7 million from a road fund to help cover administrative costs for the last three months of the fiscal year.

The department said the move is allowable and typical late in a budget year. The money is coming from ALDOT’s Public Road and Bridge Fund, which consists largely of gas tax receipts and federal funding receipts, but not the 2019 gas tax increase. That account, known as the Rebuild Alabama Fund, is specifically prohibited from being diverted from road and bridge projects for other purposes.
State agencies often transfer Legislature-allocated money between funds throughout a budget year, as allowed by law. The actions have to go through the Department of Finance.

Still, the decrease in road funding and increase in administrative funding first reported by Alabama Daily News Monday gives some lawmakers pause. Read more.

Community Leaders Gather for Open House of Montgomery Mental Health Crisis Center

MONTGOMERY — Community and Alabama Department of Mental Health leaders gathered Wednesday to get their first look at one of the three new mental health crisis centers going up across Alabama.

These facilities will provide 24/7 care for anyone experiencing an acute mental health crisis and are meant to ease the burden on local emergency rooms and jails that have become the main receivers of individuals in crisis. The other facilities will soon open in Mobile and Huntsville. There are also plans to open a fourth in the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa area. Read more.

Extra Unemployment Benefits Ended Saturday

As of Saturday, Alabama’s unemployed workers will no longer receive extra federally funded benefits put in place to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Kay Ivey last month announced she was withdrawing the state from those programs effective June 19. Read more about her reasons and the effects on the unemployed in BirminghamWatch’s original reporting.
Governor Shuts Down Extra Help for the Unemployed, Says Workers Needed to Invigorate the Economy

Kelly Butler to Retire as Finance Director Citing Possible ALS Diagnosis

MONTGOMERY — State Finance Director Kelly Butler is retiring Aug. 1 due to medical complications that might be associated with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Gov. Kay Ivey said today.

Early symptoms point to an ALS diagnosis, and Butler will undergo additional testing in the coming days, a press release from Ivey’s office said.

“Without exception, Kelly Butler has been the finest finance director to have ever served the state of Alabama,” Ivey said. Read more.