OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Senate passed a bill that would direct millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds toward addressing the state’s nursing shortage, which worsened amid the pandemic.

Senate Bill 1458‘s plan uses $55 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to establish grant programs to help 21 state colleges, universities and technology centers to address the need for nurses.

Sen. John Haste, R-Broken Arrow, serves as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding’s working group on Health and Human Services. He presented the bill to the Senate on Thursday.

“Last year, we held a public meeting to look at the impact of the pandemic on Oklahoma, and one of the things we learned about was the shortage of nurses at all levels, in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living centers and other facilities,” Haste said. “Starting this fall, these grants will help 21 institutions to expand their nursing programs, enabling us to better meet this crucial need in our state.”

The bill now goes to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. House Majority Floor Leader John Echols, R-Oklahoma City, is the House author of the bill.

“It’s absolutely critical we get more nurses into our health care facilities to help improve care and outcomes for Oklahomans,” Echols said. “The dollars provided by this legislation will ensure more nurses are trained and ready to help address our current shortage.”