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Mayor: Omaha COVID relief money will aid health services, violence prevention
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COVID relief funds

Mayor: Omaha COVID relief money will aid health services, violence prevention

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Douglas County wrapped up the old year and started the new one by tallying its highest weekly COVID case count of the pandemic.

Community programs addressing a range of priorities, including workforce development and violence prevention, will get a financial boost when Omaha distributes millions of dollars in federal COVID relief money.

Pending approval by the City Council, the city’s first distribution of $15 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars will be managed by local nonprofits United Way of the Midlands and the Omaha Community Foundation, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced Wednesday.

United Way will distribute $5 million with a focus on programs that address basic needs, including access to food and shelter, homelessness services and health services.

ARPA funds

Donna Kush, president and CEO of the Omaha Community Foundation, speaks alongside Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert; Shawna Forsberg, president and CEO of United Way of the Midlands; and Omaha Finance Director Steve Curtiss during a press conference announcing the first allocations of the city's ARPA funds.

The Omaha Community Foundation will assist in distributing $10 million to nonprofits that prioritize workforce development and violence intervention and prevention.

Another $7 million will be allocated to assist local hotels with COVID-19 safety measures and provide funds for expansions and projects that were delayed because of the pandemic.

Congress passed the $1.9 trillion ARPA in March with the goal of counteracting the economic damage caused by COVID-19. The package included $350 billion for eligible state, local, territorial and tribal governments.

About $56 million was allocated to the City of Omaha in May. Another $56 million is expected in early spring 2022.

While the primary use of the funds is intended for local government to replace revenue losses, the money also can be used to support community programs, respond to pandemic impacts and promote economic recovery, Stothert said.

“This is the largest amount of grant money that the city has ever awarded to nonprofit organizations,” Stothert said. “It will make a significant difference for many organizations and the people who depend on their services.”

If approved by the Omaha City Council in January, United Way of the Midlands and the Omaha Community Foundation will begin accepting applications in February.

The Omaha Community Foundation plans to announce funding decisions in collaboration with the city by mid-June, said Donna Kush, president and CEO of the Omaha Community Foundation.

“This infusion of federal funding is a unique, one-time opportunity to have significant impact, and our focus will be pushing forward the strong, innovative work that is already happening in our community,” Kush said.

The Foundation also plans to offer training and technical assistance to eligible organizations to help navigate federal guidelines and requirements.

Applications to the $7 million 2022 Hotel Stimulus Program can be made at hotelgrant@cityofomaha.org from Jan. 10 through Feb. 18. The allocations will be considered by the Omaha City Council in the spring.

The program will be developed by Omaha’s tourism group, Visit Omaha, and managed by the city’s finance department.

In 2019, 13.4 million visitors traveled to Omaha and spent $1.4 billion. The city estimates that the pandemic created a loss of more than $343 million in visitor spending in 2020 with hotels among the hardest hit.

Both the hotel and community grant programs were created with input from the public and through recommendations from the mayor’s COVID-19 advisory group, Stothert said.

The programs were also approved by Deloitte, a financial consultant contracted by the city to help in navigating the extensive federal guidelines that come with ARPA dollars.

Deloitte’s payment from Omaha, which is not to exceed $250,000, will come out of the federal money.

Jurisdictions that accepted ARPA money have until 2026 to spend it and are required to regularly report their spending to the Treasury Department. Jurisdictions that fail to spend the money according to the guidelines must return those dollars to the federal government.

The City of Omaha’s priorities for the millions in federal aid were established in a recovery plan that was created with public input over the summer.

Over the next several months, additional announcements will be made on how the remainder of the funds will be distributed, Stothert said.


jwade@owh.com, 402-444-1067

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Jessica Wade covers breaking news, crime and the Omaha zoo. Follow her on Twitter @Jess_Wade_OWH. Phone: 402-444-1067

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