The state’s committee in charge of allocating $1.25 billion from the 2020 federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act, voted Wednesday to extend the spending timeline for certain projects until the end of the year.
According to Larry Walther, Secretary for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, several projects the CARES Act Steering Committee already approved and gave funds to had an initial spending deadline of June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
However, over $61 million, which includes funding for projects from the Department of Commerce and Department of Health has not yet been spent.
When asked by committee member Sen. Joyce Elliott as to why the funding had not been spent, Walther said it could be for a variety of reasons.
"We have inquired and asked them how much they feel like they believe they’d be needing by the end of the year and they did that. They gave us that amount. They also told us how much they could return and that was part of the return amount. So I cannot give a specific explanation on each and every one of them," Walther said.
The board motioned and then approved of the extension for those projects, giving them instead a deadline of Dec. 31, 2021.
In addition to pushing back the spending deadline, the committee also awarded funding to three more requests, The largest came from the Arkansas Department of Corrections, which asked for over $2 million for reimbursement of COVID-19 related purchases.
Solomon Graves, Secretary of the Department of Corrections, gave details on the request during the meeting.
"COVID-19 testing, the establishment of temporary housing during the peak of the pandemic for the use as quarantine facilities, ventilators, UV lights, barriers, various forms of PPE, equipment for remote working within the various division of the department and waste water testing. These items are not on the pre-approved list," Graves said.
Additional approved requests included over $820,000 to the Department of Transformation and Shared Services, as well as over $750,000 to the Department of Public Safety.