Senate budget leaders praise hard work by members on pandemic funding; projects will be 'transformational' for OklahomaWed, 21 Sep 2022 09:10:44 CDT
Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, and Vice Chair Chuck Hall, R- Perry, said Oklahomans would see generational benefits as a result of the incredible hard work and dedication of members of the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding over the past year. On Tuesday, the bicameral, bipartisan committee approved more than $1.1 billion in projects through funding provided by the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that will address critical needs facing the state - needs that were heightened as a result of the pandemic. Thompson and Hall noted there were 1,400 portal submissions totaling $18 billion in requests for the state’s more than $1.8 billion in ARPA funding.
“I want to thank Senator Hall for his outstanding work and leadership, and all the members of the Senate and the House who have spent literally thousands of hours pouring over those requests and then vetting them in our working groups. I have often received calls after hours and on weekends from members as we worked to identify those projects that would have the greatest impact on our state and our citizens, not just for years to come but for generations to come,” Thompson said. “This work and the projects that will result will literally transform the future of Oklahoma. We’re going to improve the lives of Oklahomans in every single part of our state.”
The four working groups of the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding include Health and Human Services; Economic Development and Workforce; Government Transformation and Collaboration; and Transportation, Infrastructure, and Rural Development. The full joint committee approved all 45 projects recommended by those working groups. Those proposals will now be placed into legislation and will be voted on by the Legislature in an upcoming special session.
Thompson and Hall said the 45 projects being put forward mean Oklahoma will be able to move from having one of the lowest broadband connectivity rates in the nation to having 95 percent connectivity within five years. Additional funding will help communities throughout Oklahoma make major water and sewer infrastructure improvements and expansions, help dramatically increase access to health and mental health care, and provide additional educational opportunities to address critical workforce needs in health care, broadband, cyber innovation, aerospace, trucking, manufacturing, and more. Projects also will help support programs for troubled youth, child abuse prevention, domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual abuse and elder abuse.
“What we’re going to be able to do for Oklahoma with these projects is nothing short of monumental. We cannot grow our communities, our economy, without water. Another crucial area is broadband, which impacts not only commerce, but health access, education - you name it. Being able to address health outcomes through access, education and research is phenomenal, and the workforce development efforts will improve lives and further grow our economy,” Hall said. “This process has been eye-opening as to the needs of our state. We have more work to do, but I am grateful to Senator Thompson for his leadership and faith in me and the incredible dedication of all our members.”
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