Monday’s meeting marks the first hearing of the ARPA Study Committee 

On Monday, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Study Committee in the Mississippi State Senate held their first meeting to discuss and review recommendations on how to spend the $1.8 billion in federal funds.

Throughout the subcommittee hearing, the Senators heard from a variety of speakers, including State Senator Mack “Bodi” (R-LA) and Tony Niknejad, Policy Director for Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. Both of these speakers gave Magnolia State lawmakers insight into how Louisiana and Tennessee handled the ARPA funds, where the funds were allocated throughout the states, and what processes the states used to ensure long term benefits from the funding.

Emily Maher, Senior Policy Specialist with the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), provided information into what states across the country have done with their ARPA funds. Maher stated that in Colorado, they established a broad legislative framework and determined specific uses by transfer of funds to existing and new cash funds. In Georgia, the Governor created three bipartisan committees to consider proposals and make recommendations. In Utah, they established a set of criteria for how to spend the funds, scored proposals based on that criteria, and divided funds into buckets. Massachusetts had a three phase recovery plan: Phase 1 is Urgent Needs and lasts from now until January 2022, Phase 2 is Additional Recovery Projects, and Phase 3 is Multi-Year Recovery Projects.

Representatives from the Mississippi Legislative Budget Office (LBO) provided eligible expenses examples for lawmakers to consider. They include:

  • Public Health Response: Medical Expenses, Behavioral Health, Public Health and Safety, COVID-19 Mitigation and Containment.
  • Economic Response: Workers and Family, Small Businesses (loans, grants and technical assistance), Public Sector (replenish State UI Funds, rehire staff), Impacted Industries (tourism).
  • Infrastructure: Water and Sewer (improve water supply, drinking water), Broadband
  • Equity-Based Services: Assist the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on socially disadvantaged communities
  • Public Sector Revenue Loss: Use funding to provide government services to the extent of the reductions in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Premium Pay for Essential Workers: Use this funding to provide premium pay to eligible workers performing essential work in either a public sector role or through grants to third parties.

To close the first hearing of the subcommittee, State Auditor Shad White alongside Mark Johnson and Jeff Goodwin with Technical Assistance for the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor, spoke to the legislators. Auditor White offered his Office’s support and guidance for the Senators as they proceed with discussion on spending the ARPA funds.

State Senators Bart Williams (R) and Albert Butler (D) spoke with Y’all Politics on what they heard in the first meeting. See their comments below and on Twitter @MSyallpolitics.

Subcommittee Chairman Senator John Polk told Y’all Politics last week that it may be the case that the subcommittee will see consecutive meetings starting the week after Thanksgiving up until Christmas.