State leaders worry COVID school relief money won’t be spent

State leaders worry COVID school relief money won’t be spent
COVID-19 money (Source: MGN)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Governor Kay Ivey and some state lawmakers are concerned that we may have to send millions back to Washington that could have gone towards COVID funding for schools.

“Oh heck yeah, I’m concerned. They’re not the only ones who haven’t spent their allocation and it’s time to spend it,” said Governor Ivey.

Governor Ivey allocated $170 million in federal COVID funds - $100 million for devices and $70 million for health related expenses. The money must be spent before December 31.

Senator Arthur Orr, Senate Education Budget Chair, estimates only about $30 million has been used of that pot of money.

Ivey also allocated $100 million towards the internet voucher program that has to be spent by the December 31 deadline.

“We’ve got three months - really a little over two months,” said Senator Orr.

Leaders of the School Superintendents of Alabama says districts had trouble spending because of backlogs in device orders. Director Ryan Hollingsworth Executive Director sent this statement:

“The main issues we are seeing on the remote learning and devices allowance are simply supply chain issues related to devices. With so many devices ordered nationwide in the spring and early summer, if a district ordered them after Governor Ivey released this funding source in July, they are more than likely on a waiting list or have found an alternative product. In order to meet the timeline, the district may be forced to buy a product they typically don’t use or spend more money for a more expensive product.”

Senator Orr says a large portion of the money for the free internet program for students has not been used either.

“We thought that was a pretty good estimate of children who needed access to internet,” said Senator Orr. “The sooner we know what’s going to be needed as far as internet access we can re-appropriate or reallocate money that’s unspent.”

Governor Ivey said she’s relying on state Department of Education leaders to help schools spend the money.

Senator Orr says while nothing is set in stone, leaders could come together by the end of October or early November to discuss how the money that hasn’t been used could be reallocated so we don’t lose it.

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