A Service of UA Little Rock
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
KUAR in Monticello is down temporarily due to issues concerning the transmitter. We appreciate your patience as we actively work to resolve the issues.

Arkansas will start distributing $1M grant to pregnancy resource centers in January

Exterior of the Arkansas Pregnancy Resource Center at 2 Office Park Drive in west Little Rock. 

John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate 06/22/2023
John Sykes
/
Arkansas Advocate
Money for Arkansas pregnancy resource centers will begin distribution in January.

Arkansas lawmakers on Friday allowed the state Department of Finance and Administration to administer a taxpayer-funded $1 million program to provide funds to pregnancy resource centers, which are often religiously affiliated and discourage abortion while encouraging birth.

The department will start distributing the money in January, spokesman Scott Hardin said in an email.

Arkansas has more than 40 of these centers, often called “crisis pregnancy centers.” They operate independently but form a community, the Arkansas Pregnancy Network, due to their shared missions and similar services, Maria Speer, executive director of the Life Choices center in Conway, told lawmakers in August.

The Legislature passed a law in April to create the grant for the second year in a row. The first year of the grant resulted in 23 pregnancy resource centers, adoption agencies and maternity homes receiving portions of the reserved $1 million between September 2022 and January 2023.

This year, 29 facilities have applied for the grants and have requested a total of roughly $1.96 million, Doris Smith, the head of the Office of Intergovernmental Services at the finance department, told lawmakers Tuesday.

“We’re in the review process, and we will calibrate [the total awards] back down to $1 million,” Smith told the Arkansas Legislative Council’s Administrative Rules Subcommittee.

The subcommittee approved the rule for administration of the grant, and the full Legislative Council gave final approval Friday.

Digital advertising was a shared priority among several recipients of last year’s grant. Several centers said they would use the money to target ads toward Arkansans whose online activity suggests they might have an unplanned pregnancy.

Many pregnancy resource centers also hoped to use some of the grants to pay for physical advertising, rent and utilities, baby supplies, parenting classes and more staff, among other things, according to their applications.

Republican leaders statewide have held up pregnancy resource centers as critical since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022 and Arkansas subsequently outlawed abortion, with a narrow exception if the pregnant person’s life is at risk. Some lawmakers have said they see these centers as tools to help reduce infant, child and maternal mortality in the state.

Also on Friday, the Legislative Council gave final approval for the distribution of federal financial aid to three rural Arkansas hospitals:

$1,549,573 to DeWitt Hospital and Nursing Home

$3,441,839 to Chicot Memorial Medical Center in Lake Village

$1,368,582 to North Arkansas Regional Medical Center in Harrison.

The aid comes from $60 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds that lawmakers set aside in August 2022. Thirteen facilities have now received a total of roughly $46 million from this pot of money, aimed at covering costs that rural hospitals incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tess Vrbin is a reporter with the nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization Arkansas Advocate. It is part of the States Newsroom which is supported by grants and a coalition of readers and donors.