State lawmakers announce summer-long session

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 10:46 PM CDT
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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KSWO) - Wednesday, May 18, Oklahoma state lawmakers announced they would be having a special session throughout the summer to decide how federal funds from the American Rescue Plan will be spent across the state after delays have held up the money for nearly a year.

In early 2021, the state of Oklahoma received $1.8 billion in American Rescue Plan funds from the federal government.

Representative Trey Caldwell said the state has been in possession of half of the $1.8 billion for ten months and no local programs has received any money.

“There hasn’t been a single penny spent other than on the consultants that had been hired,” he said.

Senator John Montgomery said the delay has come from Governor Stitt and the executive committee that was given a role in determining where these funds go.

After months of waiting for something to be done, he and other legislators said the time has come for them to take action.

“That particular committee had not met to sign off on some of those projects a lot of these things that we have vetted we have worked really hard at to get done and have frankly been lingering for a couple of months,” Montgomery said.

He hopes to expand mental health access for children here in southwest Oklahoma and says the problem of finding beds for children with mental health needs extends across the state.

“There’s a smaller grant that we are authorizing to the University of Oklahoma’s hospital, the children’s hospital to expand I believe 10 beds for mental health needs,” Montgomery said.

Caldwell said Southwest Oklahoma is in need of more rural health care access, and resources for projects like FISTA here in Lawton, but Caldwell would also like to copy what he is seeing in other parts of the state.

“Like our industrial park and making sure we have the proper gas lines, water structures, and the roads to get there so that way when the next big company comes along we can try to recruit them into our area,” Caldwell said.

On Wednesday, May 18, State Democrats released statements in support of removing the approving authority for ARPA funds from the executive branch and giving sole control to the legislature.

The regular legislative session will be ending next week but the special session will be meeting all summer long, in the hopes of finding a resolution by the fall.

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