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Alabama could have more time to spend millions in CARES Act money

Updated: Dec. 23, 2020 at 6:41 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama could have more time to spend the $1.7 billion allotted to the state earlier this year from the CARES Act that Congress passed.

States currently face an end-of-the-year deadline to spend all of that money on COVID-19-related expenses. However, the COVID-19 relief package Congress passed this week would extend that deadline to the end of 2021. The package is awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature.

And Alabama has about $490 million “unexpended” dollars, according to the Alabama Department of Finance.

“It’s been very difficult to try to figure out ways to spend this money with so many strings attached,” said House Budget Chairman Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark.

There are tight restrictions on how to use the CARES Act money. Clouse says he would like to see some of that money go toward replenishing the unemployment insurance trust fund to stop possible tax hikes on businesses.

Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, District 7, said she wants the money to go toward increased testing and vaccine education.

“I hope that the governor will use this money to close the gap with testing and especially to help us to do outreach,” Sewell said. “Especially to communities of color that may be fearful, rightfully so, of vaccinations given the Tuskegee experiment.”

It would also give Alabama cities more time to spend that money. Kayla Bass with the League of Municipalities says of the roughly $125 million cities received, only about $42 million has been spent.

Bass says the amount of money spent is low because they are not allowed to use that money for revenue loss.

“That’s why we’re going to continue to advocate for the definition of how those funds can be spent to be expanded,” Bass said. “Because I think once that happens, you’ll see that number rise.”

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