Saturday, September 03, 2022

Special session: 9 pandemic stimulus projects sent to full Legislature

The below projects, along with previously approved ones, would total approximately $510M of the $1.8B in federal pandemic stimulus funding allocated to the State of Oklahoma.

Joint committee sends nine ARPA projects to full Legislature

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding on Tuesday advanced the second slate of projects for consideration in the Legislature's upcoming special session on American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

The nine ARPA requests that will now be considered by the full Legislature are:

  • Mental Health Services  - $87 million for a state of the art mental health facility that will add an additional 100 beds compared to the current Griffin Memorial Hospital facility, ensure timely access for those seeking treatment for mental health issues and grow the behavioral health workforce.
  • Behavioral Health - $38 million for additional capacity and expanded behavioral health services at the already in process new hospital to replace the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health.
  • Military & First Responder Healthcare - $22,150,000 for a Holistic Health and Fitness center to provide both mental and physical health services for soldiers, airmen and first responders.
  • Healthcare IT Modernization - $44 million for the University Hospital Authority (UHA), OU Health (OUH) and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) to implement a new electronic record system and modernize the technology infrastructure of OUH in order to provide Oklahomans with cutting-edge therapies they cannot currently receive.
  • State Department of Health IT - $26 million to modernize IT capabilities at the Oklahoma State Department of Health to provide electronic health records that would improve communication with clients, staff and external providers. 
  • Administrative Office of the Courts IT - $6,226,250 to provide e-filing, video conferencing, language access and case tracking capabilities to the Administrative Office of the Courts.
  • Rural Water Projects - $12 million in funds matching tribal contributions to create new water infrastructure in rural Oklahoma communities in need of system upgrades to provide safe and reliable drinking water and wastewater systems.
  • Water & Sewer Projects - $35 million for partnerships with municipalities, cities and tribes to coordinate on water and sewage projects in Oklahoma City, including relocation of a water transmission main that supplies drinking water near Tinker Air Force Base.
  • Water Project Grant Program - $50 million for the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to create grant programs for the support and enhancement of water infrastructure across the state.
    • $25 million to assist small communities/rural districts with infrastructure needs
    • $20 million for mid-large system construction
    • $5 million to support dam rehabilitation efforts

The projects will be considered 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.

"The goal of the joint committee when assessing and recommending ARPA projects for legislative consideration is to determine how these projects will benefit our state," said Speaker Pro Tempore Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow. "All of the projects recommended by the joint committee in this phase will not only provide a benefit to Oklahomans in the short term, but will also create a strong foundation for the future."

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. 

“We have been working diligently to decide how to spend these federal funds as efficiently as possible on projects that will not only meet critical needs today but help support generations to come,” said Sen. Chuck Hall, R-Perry. “These projects will address crucial mental health and healthcare needs of our citizens and heroes, modernize the IT capabilities of various state agencies, and upgrade our state’s water infrastructure to ensure all Oklahomans have access to safe, reliable drinking water. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished and looking forward to presenting these projects to the Legislature.”

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.

The nine new projects are in addition to projects passed by the Legislature during the June convening of the Second Extraordinary Session which included:

  • Healthcare Workforce – $15 million to complete the new Northeastern State University School of Optometry, to 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.  
  • 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.

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. 


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