The Subcommittee is expected to hold hearings twice a week until the end of December as they consider how to recommend spending the $1.8 billion.
This week, the Mississippi Senate Appropriations ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) Subcommittee held hearings on Monday and Tuesday. Those meetings mark the third and fourth time that the lawmakers have met since the committee was named by Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann.
The State Senators on the Subcommittee have been tasked with making recommendations on how to spend the $1.8 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds being sent to the state from the federal government.
On Monday, the Senators heard from eight state agencies. These included:
- Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning
- Mississippi Community College Board
- Mississippi Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
- Mississippi State Supreme Court
- Accelerate Mississippi
- Mississippi Department of Employment Security
- Mississippi Emergency Management Agency
- Mississippi Home Corporation
Representatives from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) said that they had asked colleges and universities in Mississippi to develop a list of projects that they believe qualify for ARPA funds, and to give a glimpse of the significant needs on their campuses.
The Mississippi Community College Board (MCCB) also said that they asked community colleges to compile a similar list of projects. MCCB presented three ARPA requests for community colleges, which total $84.6 million:
- Funding for water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure
- Funding to address current supply chain issues
- Funding for Allied Health programs at community colleges
The Mississippi Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (MAICU) total ARPA request is $39.473 million. MAICU provided examples of how the funds would be used, including healthcare related allowable expenses, infrastructure upgrades, and broadband expansion.
Ryan Miller, Executive Director of the Office of Workforce Development at Accelerate Mississippi, spoke before the subcommittee to share his office’s thoughts on where ARPA funds could be best utilized to assist in workforce development in the state. Miller presented four opportunity areas or sectors: healthcare, emerging sectors, logistics and supply chain, and specific populations.
The Mississippi Department of Employment Security requested an ARPA Trust Fund infusion of $90.8 million. Representatives from MDES said that this would help to negate the COVID impact on the Trust Fund, return the Trust Fund to pre-pandemic levels, improve Trust Fund health, and promote sustainable solvency.
Stephen McCraney, Executive Director of Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), stated that without the ARPA funds they will be forced to “dip” into state funds. MEMA told the subcommittee that they are asking for a total ARPA request of $12,917,552.
On Tuesday, the lawmakers heard from seven other state agencies. Those were:
- Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration
- Mississippi Development Authority
- Mississippi Department of Human Services
- Mississippi Public Utilities Staff
- Mississippi Department of Corrections
- Mississippi Department of Public Safety
- Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board
The Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) noted that they are focused on identifying potential capital projects for state institutions/agencies that are not otherwise provided for under CARES, ESSER, or HERF funding.
Representatives from DFA confined their recommendations to the specifically identified Eligibility Categories in accordance with U.S. Treasury Compliance and Reporting, and Reporting Guidance. DFA provided recommendations for agencies which included water conservation projects, projects for water filtration, projects for infrastructure, projects for ventilation, and more.
The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) recommended expenditures for economic development related items such as tourism, quality of place, workforce development and talent retention.
Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) requested a Legacy System Replacement. They are requesting full funding for this project to modernize the information systems that ensure program integrity, support MDHS clients, and impact day-to-day efficiency. MDHS representatives said this IT project will reduce costs and save taxpayer money while improving usability and functionality of agency’s data systems. It would also enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of services provided to Mississippians. The total cost of the project would be $150,025,834.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) requested a total of $118.8 million. The funds, their presenters said, would go to a variety of projects that deal with improving correctional facilities and work centers.
The ARPA Subcommittee will reconvene on Monday, December 6, 2021.