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Lawmakers have yet to determine how to spend the $1.8 billion in ARPA funding

Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 8:50 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi was granted 1.8 billion in what’s known as ARPA funds from the federal government as a boost for economic recovery. But lawmakers haven’t decided how to use it yet.

Conversations started before the session on what to do with the 1.8 billion dollars in ARPA funds. But now, the Lt. Governor is concerned.

“The status is it’s not coming out,” said Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann. “You know, it’s stuck.”

Hosemann says they’ve sent the Senate bills to conference, but he doesn’t believe it needs to come down to the wire without full discussions of the impactful projects the money could be directed to.

“Any conference where we can discuss any one or all of those from rural water to the National Guard, from Child Protective Services, to, you name it, broadband, we’re here,” noted Hosemann. “We’re ready. We want to go to work. We are very concerned that this is getting hung up here in the last two weeks of the session.”

Actions by the U.S. House of Representatives last week also added some urgency for Senators afraid money could be drawn back by the feds if not handled soon.

“If we leave here and we haven’t allocated it and they did act before we could act, we as a body run the risk of losing perhaps one of the largest amounts of monies to ever come into our state,” said Sen. David Parker.

“I think their proposal was that if the project had not been obligated,” explained Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Briggs Hopson. “And we haven’t obligated any projects, because we haven’t even been able to get the cooperation to be able to get the money out and the programs designated to start that process. So that’s, that’s where we are and you never know what could happen.”

“If we wait another year, that means that we’re behind every other state that has been in this money,” added Hosemann.

Inflation is another factor.

“If we wait a year, inflation is running about 7%,” said the Lt. Governor. “So next year, when I come to spend my 1.8, it’s really 1.65.”

And it’s not just Republicans pleading for action to take place soon.

”Mississippi cannot afford to lose $1.8 billion under any circumstance,” said Sen. David Jordan. “We must get that money for bridges and roads because we are in desperate need of them in the Mississippi Delta and all over this state.”

The state has till the end of 2024 to obligate those funds and 2026 to get them spent. But the Senate wants to at least get it obligated now.

The Speaker responded in a letter this evening to these comments of legislative gridlock, saying that the Senate has claimed a severe revenue shortfall is looming and that’s why the state can’t eliminate the income tax.

Speaker Philip Gunn calls it hypocrisy that the Senate says that, but then says they want to propose spending all the ARPA money instead of keeping it in reserves.

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