Submitted bills provide funds to the Dept. of Child Protective Services, MEMA, National Guard, and Department of Mental Health.

After the fall meetings of the Mississippi Senate ARPA Subcommittee, legislation has been filed regarding the suggested allocation of the $1.8 billion in The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds being sent to the state from the federal government.

The ARPA Subcommittee held a handful of meetings to hear from a variety of presenters as they considered recommendations on how to spend the money. State Departments, outside organizations, and public institutions presented their plans for funding, if received, and highlighted successes and hardships during the pandemic.

The following bills were submitted relating to the distribution of ARPA funds. They were filed by Senate Appropriation Chairman Briggs Hopson and supported by the ARPA Subcommittee Chairman John Polk:

  • SB 2862, would allocate $59.1 million to the Department of Child Protective Services.
  • SB 2863, would allocate $3.17 million to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
  • SB 2864, would allocate nearly $10,391,000 to the Mississippi National Guard.
  • SB 2865, would allocate $86,069,500 to the Department of Mental Health and $18,550,000 to the Department of Mental Health to be utilized at Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs).

Other bills associated with the allocation of ARPA funds are sure to be considered in the weeks ahead as well.

The funding allocated to the Department of Child Protective Services through Senate Bill 2862 would provide enhanced services to child welfare-involved families and foster youth that were negatively impacted by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Through SB 2863, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency can use the funds, “for the purpose of defraying eligible expenses in connection with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) as allowed under Section 9901 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) or any guidance or regulation issued by the United States Department of the Treasury in conformity therewith.”

Funds appropriated under SB 2864 would go to completing capital projects at the Mississippi National Guard buildings and grounds that are allowable through ARPA, federal guidance, or other regulations.

Capital projects include: Eligible projects under Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) or Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF); stormwater management projects that have a water quality benefit; prevention, mitigation, or other services in congregate living facilities and other key settings; ventilation improvements in congregate settings; capital investments in public facilities to implement COVID-19 mitigation tactics; and any other projects that are eligible under ARPA excluding broadband infrastructure.

The $86,069,500 allocated to the Department of Mental Health would be to assist with behavioral and mental health needs exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, responding to other public health impacts, and other operational expenses.

In addition to the $86 million, Section 2 of SB 2865 provides $18,550,000 to the Department of Mental Health to be utilized at Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) or for the benefit of CMHCs to allow for investments in software, databases, telemedicine capabilities, and other information technology resources that support behavioral and mental health needs exacerbated by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, responding to other public health impacts, and other operational expenses.

The federal government provided guidelines on where each state can spend the funds. The Treasury Department previously said that state and local governments can use the federal money for public health matters and for economic problems resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic that impacted workers, households, small businesses, industries, and government.

Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann previously said that overseeing the expenditure of the $1.8 billion in ARPA funds would be one of the biggest challenges during the 2022 Mississippi Legislative session. Hosemann has repeatedly said that the state should use the funds to focus on “transformational and generational” improvements.

“Challenges always come with significant opportunities and responsibilities,” Hosemann said in a press release. “There will be many proposals to use one-time money on fleeting items. My hope, however, is we will stay organized and focused on generational change. Years from now, we want to be able to point to the positive difference this influx of resources has made in our state.”

You can read the full versions of the ARP fund bills here: SB 2862SB 2863SB 2864, and SB 2865.