Tue, Nov 14, 2023 3:24 PM
By Merrilee Gasser, The Center Square
Arkansas has a balance of $327 million remaining in American Rescue Plan Act funds after legislators on the Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council approved more appropriation requests Tuesday.
The state received a $1.6 billion appropriation in 2022, followed by another $1.6 billion appropriation in 2023. Its appropriation for fiscal year 2024 is $1.2 billion, according to the state’s monthly ARPA report.
To date, Arkansas state agencies and higher education institutions have requested $997.4 million in ARPA funds. The state has over $3 billion remaining from an initial appropriation balance of $4 billion, according to the report.
State agencies make up the majority of appropriation requests at $973.8 million while higher education institutions have requested a total of $23.5 million, the report shows.
During Tuesday’s meeting, appropriation requests for direct federal awards were approved for the Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, the Division of Workforce Services at the Department of Commerce, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and Black River Technical College.
The council also approved requests for state awards for the Department of Finance and Administration and four emergency aid relief requests for hospitals: Eureka Springs Hospital, Magnolia Regional Medical Center, Delta Memorial Hospital, and Piggott Community Hospital.
A new component of the monthly ARPA report includes details of emergency aid sent to hospitals through a $60 million program linked to the Department of Human Services.
As of the end of October, $13.3 million of the $60 million program has been distributed, the report said.
Hospitals that wanted to receive funding from the program first had to choose an accountability plan which could include either making “strategic reforms” to improve their financial positions or larger “transformative changes” that could include changing designations.
One of the hospitals that was approved for funding Tuesday was Eureka Springs Hospital, which has been going through the process of switching from a critical access facility to a rural emergency hospital.
When asked by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, how the transition process has been, the hospital CEO Angie Shaw called it a “good experience” that has remained smooth thus far.
“We’ve been a critical access hospital for several years and healthcare in Eureka Springs has changed,” Shaw said. “Looking at the past 18 months, it has shifted more for us from our in-patient utilization towards more of our emergency services and outpatient services, so this designation definitely caught our eye. We’re already operating, more or less, as a rural emergency hospital.”
Eureka Springs Hospital received approval for $4.5 million in funding Tuesday. Other hospitals have received funding ranging from $1.9 million to over $6 million, according to the monthly ARPA report.