It’s a seemingly unprecedented investment — $433 million — much of it going to North Omaha; a neighborhood that for decades has faced redlining, racism and a lack of economic opportunity.
“What we’re trying to do here is inject opportunity into our districts, so that many of our fellow citizens are not disproportionately represented in our criminal justice system,” said Senator Terrell. McKinney.
The plan also calls for at least $55 million to be spent in South Omaha.
“The way to change that is to create economic opportunity, to invest in communities, to invest in economic development, in jobs, in centers where people will work and want to live,” said Senator Tony Vargas. , which depicts parts of South Omaha.
This money goes to a wide variety of areas. It lists affordable housing, small business support, job training, and business development.
It also earmarks funds for a business park near Eppley Airfield, a Chief Standing Bear movie shot in Nebraska, and innovation centers in North Omaha.
“Building around, how can we ensure that we’re the ‘Mecca for Entrepreneurs in the Midwest,’ and how can we support small businesses in a different way,” Wayne said.
North and South Omaha are slated for more than $300 million in the bill and that money largely comes from federal dollars allocated in the U.S. bailout, passed in 2021.
The state is also adding $55 million from cash reserves and $30 million from the general fund. Wayne also said he thinks Douglas County and the City of Omaha will inject additional dollars.
But Wayne also got creative to bring more money into the package.
The bill takes coronavirus relief funds, which were also included in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and distributes them throughout the state.
“I’m just trying to make it fair for everyone,” Wayne said.
That money was originally meant to be used on rural broadband, and lawmakers aim to ensure that still happens when and if the bill passes.
“I still want to see the majority of that money go to rural broadband,” said Sen. Curt Friesen, who chairs the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.
Despite a session filled with personal attacks and Wayne’s visible frustration over the funding of the bill, a compromise was apparently reached. He was hailed Thursday as an example of what can be done in the Legislative Assembly.
“It’s not short-term thinking, it’s long-term, multi-year, thoughtful, strategic thinking. People say why everything is zero-sum. I win. You lose. That’s not it !” Hilgers said.
If it passes final reading one more time and is signed by Governor Ricketts, a special committee will be formed that will spend all that money.
$135 million is being held back until at least next year and the legislature will then assess how the money is being spent before spending the rest of the money.
“It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Because we get this kind of money – and this kind of money and this kind of investment in North Omaha – if we fail , this body will never, ever give us a second chance,” Wayne said.
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