Mayor Jean Stothert announces first distributions of ARPA funds

Originally published: January 6, 2022

Mayor Jean Stothert announces first distributions of ARPA funds

OMAHA, Neb. — Mayor Jean Stothert announced the first plans to distribute fund from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The first program would award $15 million in grants to non-profits.

Under the plan, the city would partner with Omaha Community Foundation and United Way of the Midlands to distribute the grants.

OCF would distribute $10 million to non-profits addressing issues like workforce development, violence intervention, and mental health crisis response.

United Way of the Midlands would distribute the other $5 million to non-profits that deal with issues like hunger, shelter, homelessness, and financial literacy. President and CEO, Shawna Forsberg said calls to the United Way’s 24/7, 211 hotline went from 70,000 a year in 2019 to 200,000 in 2021.

“That’s a really strong indicator of where the need is at and aligned with what the interests are of where this needs to be funded,” said Forsberg.

Mayor Stothert said this would be the largest amount of money the city has ever awarded to non-profits.

“We want the City of Omaha to recover. We also want businesses to recover. We want people to be back at work. There are people still really having a hard time,” said Stothert.

The grants will be used to specifically address food insecurity, homelessness, health care, behavioral and mental health services, violence intervention and prevention, workforce development and more.

The organizations will coordinate so they are not doubling up on the same non-profits.

“Thankfully the areas that have been outlined are going to cover quite a bit of needs that we both heard from non profits throughout the pandemic,” said Donna Kush, President and CEO of the Omaha Community Foundation.

The City Council will have to sign off on that plan. The first reading will be Jan. 11, the public hearing will be on Jan. 25, with the final vote expected in February. If passed, the first applications would be accepted starting in February.

The second program is being dubbed a “hotel stimulus.”

The program was developed by Visit Omaha and would be managed by the city’s finance department. It would allocate $7 million in ARPA funds to help Omaha hotels that suffered ‘tremendous loss’ due to the pandemic.

Deb Ward, Executive Director of Omaha’s Convention and Visitors Bureau said the money would help hotels implement COVID-19 mitigation and prevention measures. It could also be used to fund planned expansion or upgrades delayed due to the pandemic.

Ward said 68 hotels in Omaha would be eligible for funding.

The mayor said the city is expected to have a total of $112 million in ARPA funds. So far, $56 million has already been deposited into the city’s accounts with the other $56 million expected to be deposited in May.

KETV NewsWatch 7’s Michelle Bandur is working to learn more about how this money will be used in our community. Tune into KETV NewsWatch 7 at 6 p.m. for a full report.

Read the original article here.