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Ricketts announces new round of coronavirus relief grants for businesses, charities

Ricketts announces new round of coronavirus relief grants for businesses, charities

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LINCOLN — Businesses, charities and individuals suffering from the economic effects of COVID-19 can soon apply for a new round of state aid, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Monday.

The second-round grants, which amount to more than $300 million, come from the $1.1 billion allocated to Nebraska from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act.

The new grants target some businesses that were passed by in the state’s initial round of aid offered back in June, including arenas, ethanol plants, zoos, and massage and tattoo parlors.

Ricketts told reporters that some businesses and individuals did not apply for funding during the initial grant period because either they hadn’t heard about the funds or didn’t think they qualified.

For instance, only about $130 million of the $230 million set aside for small-business stabilization grants was used, and $30 million of the $40 million allocated for rural broadband upgrades was given out.

The application period for the new grants begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday and ends on Nov. 13. Most of the grants are being offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Under the CARES Act, the state must allocate its funds by the end of the year, or return them to the federal Treasury.

“So we’ve got some work to do to get this out the door,” Ricketts said.

About $146 million of the new grants will go toward what the governor called “Grow Nebraska 2.” That includes:

  • $20 million for bars and restaurants, in $12,000 grants. Businesses that did not get grants in June are eligible for up to $24,000.
  • $15 million for small-business stabilization and $10 million for livestock producers. The $12,000 grants are available only to entities that didn’t get grants in June.
  • $22 million for cosmetic, massage and body art businesses, in $12,000-per-business grants.
  • $20 million for events centers and sports arenas in grants of up to $50,000 based on the size of facilities.
  • $15 million for ethanol plants, which cut production because of a decrease in travel and gasoline use; $6 million for zoos; and $3.2 million for movie theaters.

More than $48 million in grants is being targeted, on a first-come, first-served basis, for social services, including $29 million for charities, nursing homes and health clinics and $500,000 for places of worship to purchase sanitizer and masks. An additional $11 million will be sent to the state’s food banks. Child care providers are eligible for $2.5 million in aid, and $3.3 million is being sent to organizations that help with eviction protection and housing security.

Last week, the governor announced that $40 million of the leftover funds would help hospitals pay for hazard pay and traveling nurses to fill critical workforce shortages.

The initial grants in June allocated $80 million to the state’s COVID-19 response, $100 million to help local governments and about $400 million to replenish the state’s unemployment insurance fund.

Ricketts, when asked, said he is not reconsidering his decision to reject an emergency extension of federal food assistance. Nebraska is the only state that didn’t opt to extend that assistance past July.

In a related development, the governor, on Friday, issued a statement urging Congress to not finance “bailouts” of states that now have budget shortfalls because of the coronavirus.

“For those of us who believe in federalism and fiscal responsibility, passing a federal bailout would be a colossal mistake on the part of Congress,” Ricketts wrote.

To apply for the new state grants, or for more information, access the website: coronavirus.nebraska.gov/Home.

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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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