The state's federal coronavirus relief aid steering committee Thursday endorsed requests by two agencies to reallocate a total of $2 million in federal funds and another agency's request for up to $1.34 million to improve cybersecurity protections.
The 15-member Arkansas Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in March 2020 to recommend the best uses of $1.25 billion in federal funds.
The committee recommended approval of the state Department of Human Services' request to reallocate $1.088 million in unspent federal funds to use for covid-19 assistance at the Arkansas State Hospital.
The department requested the reallocation for contracts for direct care personnel to enable the State Hospital to maintain staffing for its mission of providing acute psychiatric services to its clients, as well as to procure supplies to serve staffers and beneficiaries, the department said in its written request for the funds.
The steering committee voted to recommend approval of the state Department of Commerce's request to reallocate $923,887 of its unspent federal coronavirus relief funds to the unemployment insurance administration.
The state has $1.069 million in federal coronavirus relief funds returned by state agencies to redistribute, said steering committee chairwoman Elizabeth Smith, who is secretary of the state Department of Inspector General.
The steering committee recommended approval of the state Department of Transformation and Shared Services' request for up to $1.34 million in federal funds to augment the cybersecurity protections for the overall technology infrastructure, including a new data center.
The funds would be used to purchase 200 work stations and laptops for users of the new data center; allow for cyber protection and monitoring of all services in the new data environment; and allow for monitoring and protection of all endpoints or work stations in the data center as well as the migrating agency end points, according to the Department of Transformation and Shared Services' written request for the funds. Division of Information Systems Director Jonathan Askins said the division will cover whatever cost is not covered by the federal funds.
Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Larry Walther told the steering committee that the state could receive reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for as much as $60 million that it has spent out of federal coronavirus relief funds for personal protection equipment.
Department of Human Services Secretary Cindy Gillespie said the department has a lot of covid-19 related overtime at its facilities in the past 19 months that could be paid out of that money. That money also could be used potentially to pay covid-19 related overtime at the Arkansas State Police and Department of Corrections, said Paul Louthian, a deputy director and comptroller at the finance department.
The steering committee set a Dec. 10 deadline for state agencies to spend their remaining federal coronavirus relief funds or potentially lose those funds for reallocation elsewhere. Louthian said the goods and services purchased with federal coronavirus relief funds must be rendered by Dec. 31, and the federal funds must be obligated within 45 days after that.