Alabama Arise’s Robyn Hyden testified Wednesday before a joint meeting of the House and Senate’s General Fund budget committees. She discussed Arise’s top priorities for lawmakers’ allocation of federal relief funds under the American Rescue Plan Act. Here’s the full text of Hyden’s prepared remarks:
Good afternoon. My name is Robyn Hyden. I am the executive director of Alabama Arise, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today.
The passage of the American Rescue Plan Act gives us an opportunity to create vital long-term improvements for Alabama – if we spend these funds wisely and well. We recognize that there are many serious needs in the state and that not all of them can be addressed with the funds that will be appropriated during this special session. Therefore, my comments are about the funds currently under consideration and those that will be received later this year.
Last July, Alabama Arise and more than 40 other organizations wrote Governor Kay Ivey and other Alabama leaders outlining our principles for the use of ARPA funds. One of our first principles was that we should aim for equity in outcomes, providing assistance to those most deeply impacted by COVID-19.
We applaud the commitment in the draft bill to clean water and sewer infrastructure, particularly in Alabama’s Black Belt, where sewer infrastructure is a critical need. We urge you and the Department of Environmental Management to provide these funds with as few barriers and as little red tape as possible so that the communities most in need can benefit the most.
Prioritize health care, housing, public transportation
Just last week, Alabama Arise and Cygnal surveyed a random sample of likely 2022 voters and asked them how Alabama should spend ARPA dollars. Strong majorities supported spending these funds to expand access to medical care, including Medicaid and mental health services, and as an investment in rural hospitals and access to affordable care.
Strong majorities also supported using ARPA dollars to expand access to affordable housing and public transportation, particularly in rural areas.
Alabama Arise also has some additional recommendations for how ARPA funds can most benefit the state and its neediest citizens:
- We recommend that you invest $25 million in the existing Alabama Housing Trust Fund to expand affordable housing in the state.
- We recommend that you invest $20 million in the existing Alabama Public Transportation Trust Fund to improve public transportation, particularly in rural areas of the state.
- And we recommend that you invest in modernizing the state’s computer systems so that when the next crisis arises, Alabamians have a one-stop location to apply for state services, without the long waits and delays experienced by people applying for unemployment insurance and other benefits last year.
Thank you for your time and attention.