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Federal COVID dollars go to Alabama tourism

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An Associated Press analysis shows Alabama lawmakers are using federal COVID relief dollars to bolster fishing tourism in the state. The plan is to spend almost $3 million dollars to build three boat piers at reservoirs along the Coosa River. The state said regional fishing tournaments can lure $200,000 into an economy, while national tournaments up to $1 million. The AP looked into where COVID relief money is going, and a lot of it is being used for tourism.

Alabama’s legislature has been widely criticized for using COVID dollars from the American Rescue Plan to build new prisons. Opponents say the money would be better spent to resolve staff shortages rather than building more cells in a system that the Department of Justice says is experiencing high levels of inmate-on-inmate violence. The initial bond sale for the state’s jail plan also reportedly fell $200 million dollars short of expectations.

Alabama’s not alone in spending federal COVID funding on tourism. The money is paying for graffiti-resistant trash cans in Oregon, culturally diverse music festivals in Nashville, sports facilities in various cities and new marketing campaigns to attract tourists to particular states. The AP observes these efforts are sometimes in direct competition with one another. Missouri, for example, is using American Rescue Plan dollars to cast a broader net into the upper Midwest and the South. Missouri is planning to expand advertising beyond its bordering states to reach potential travelers from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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