After months of resisting the release of the applications, the state in May provided details of almost $18 billion in project requests under the 2021 federal coronavirus relief bill, the American Rescue Plan Act.
You can search the state’s ARPA applications data here using our new and improved database. You can search by the entity requesting the money. You can also browse by spending category and see a list of the 50 largest requests for funding.
Release of the applications came after Oklahoma Watch filed an open records lawsuit against the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which had previously denied the news organization’s request for the records.
More than 1,400 applications were made for the money in Oklahoma. The state has $1.87 billion to spend. Projects must be approved by the end of 2024, and the money must be spent by the end of 2026.
In May, lawmakers voted themselves into a concurrent special session to evaluate project applications. That came after legislative leaders became frustrated with what they said was Gov. Kevin Stitt’s slow pace of approving projects that had already been vetted by the Legislature.
Lawmakers are now approving funds for relief projects in the same way they use in the budget process. Projects are vetted through working groups and subcommittees of the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding. Priorities include health care, behavioral health, workforce development, infrastructure and water and sewage projects. Each chamber then votes on the project funding with Stitt having the final say.
The special session for coronavirus relief funds met in June and approved $70 million in projects. Stitt did not sign the bills but let them become law without his signature. Those projects were:
- $25 million for the state Commerce Department to run a program for relief for state nonprofits (SB 6XX). A companion bill, SB 11XX, sets up the rules for the nonprofit program.
- $20 million to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to pair with water infrastructure project funds contributed by the Chickasaw, Choctaw and Cherokee tribes (SB 4XX).
- $15 million to the Health Care Work Force Training Commission. It will be paired with $18 million from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah to fund a $33 million expansion of its optometry program (SB 8XX).
- $8.8 million to the Health Care Work Force Training Commission to pay for nursing programs at four CareerTechs across the state (SB 9XX).
- $500,000 for administrative expenses at the state’s Broadband Office (SB 5XX) and $250,000 for administrative expenses at the Health Care Work Force Training Commission (SB 10XX).
In the regular session that ended May 27, lawmakers approved $140 million in project awards from the American Rescue Plan Act. They include $50 million for nursing programs in higher education, $75 million in water infrastructure projects and $7.5 million for behavioral health projects for children.
Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said last week lawmakers could come back in late August or early September to consider additional projects to fund under the coronavirus relief money.
“We are working in a bipartisan fashion on ARPA projects,” Treat said July 21 at a legislative forum hosted by the Northwest Oklahoma City Chamber. “We received much more in requests than we have, and we have $1.87 billion. A lot of people think that’s a lot, but we appropriate a lot more than that every year, so we’re well accustomed to appropriating that type of money within the guidelines the federal government has set.”
The federal government split the relief funds to Oklahoma and 18 other states into two payments based on the state’s unemployment rates. States with higher unemployment rates got all their allocation in one payment. The first payment of $725.6 million came last year. Oklahoma recently received the other payment of $935.2 million, state finance officials said.
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Paul Monies has been a reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2017 and covers state agencies and public health. Contact him at (571) 319-3289 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @pmonies.
Reporter Keaton Ross contributed to this report.