Senators gave final approval April 12 to a bill directing federal and state dollars to pandemic recovery efforts in Omaha and across the state.
LB1024, introduced by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, allocates $250 million of the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds provided to Nebraska to the new Economic Recovery and Incentive Division within the state Department of Economic Development, established to administer grant funding for recovery efforts from the coronavirus pandemic.
Priority for grant funding will be given to projects located within qualified census tracts in metropolitan class cities. Omaha is the state’s only metropolitan class city. A federally qualified census tract is one in which 50 percent or more of households have an income less than 60 percent of the area median gross income or a poverty rate of at least 25 percent.
LB1024 also transfers $55 million from the state’s Cash Reserve Fund and places it, along with $80 million of the ARPA funds, into the newly created Economic Recovery Contingency Fund.
The bill creates the Economic Recovery Special Committee of the Legislature to review proposals for distribution of those funds. The committee will include the chairpersons of the Appropriations and Urban Affairs committees, the speaker of the Legislature and four other senators who represent legislative districts containing one or more qualified census tracts located in Omaha.
Contingency fund dollars will not be distributed until DED has submitted a coordinated plan to the legislative committee.
The remaining funds will be distributed in fiscal year 2022-23. A newly created Qualified Census Tract Recovery Grant Program will provide funding to public and private entities located within qualified census tracts.
No less than $90 million will go to qualified census tracts in North and South Omaha. Up to $10 million will be distributed to qualified census tracts in Lincoln and $10 million in qualified census tracts outside Lincoln and Omaha.
In addition to the census tract grants, the bill directs at least $60 million for development of an airport business park in Omaha, $30 million to innovation hubs located within two miles of the same airport and $20 million to prepare land parcels for affordable housing in Omaha.
Among other provisions, the bill also distributes federal funds from the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund to qualified projects in each of the state’s three congressional districts, with $35 million for projects in CD2, $40 million in CD1 and $40 million for second class cities and villages in CD3. Funds may be used for broadband infrastructure and rehabilitation of existing community facilities.
Senators passed LB1024 on a 45-1 vote and the bill took effect immediately.