Economic Recovery Act providing funds for Omaha

WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 5:38 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Help is on the way for underserved communities in Nebraska. The Economic Recovery Act will provide funds for low-income areas in rural Nebraska, Lincoln and north and south Omaha.

The has been growth on some parts of North 30th Street, and development and hope along North 24th Street in north Omaha. But for years not much has happened along the North 16th street corridor.

Many of the businesses that were here have boarded up and left. There’s not much going on in this area.

The legislature approved and Gov. Ricketts signed the Economic Recovery Act, which will bring $335 million.

State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha says he would like to focus on revitalizing the North 16th Street area.

A seven-member committee including himself and the house speaker will be formed to prioritize what projects will get financial attention. From there, Wayne says it’s a complicated process that was created for a reason.

“We didn’t want to leave degression for this governor or future governor to move money where they think is best,” Wayne said. “We want to have the community determine where it goes.”

Wayne says the major focus will be to create jobs in the area. They are already looking at land south of the Storz Parkway to develop a business park.

“We’ve already got commitments from four companies that are going to bring at least 200 jobs.”

“The thought process for us is we need to have jobs closer to north and south Omaha. Right now they’re mainly being built out in Sarpy County and western Omaha. So we’re trying to bring an airport project which is $60 million that we’re going to put in getting that site ready”

Helping people develop new businesses and building affordable housing are other priorities.

Mark Pettit owns Pettit’s Pastry. For years he’s been one of only a handful of businesses along North 16th street. He says affordable housing in the area is a necessity.

“There’s a lot of people that need help with their housing and are turning their lives around, but they need a place to live and the shelters are sometimes full and not the best place to stay always,” Pettit said.

The multi-million dollar investment is historic for the north Omaha area. Sen. Wayne says it’s the first time the state has invested so much in this community.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and if we don’t get it right we’ll never get this type of resources invested in north Omaha. So this is the first time in my political career that I feel pressure because we have to deliver.”

The plan is to spend $135 million in year one and then spend the remaining funds in the second year. They hope to begin distributing the funds sometime in August. Officials have until 2026 to spend the money. Funds not distributed by then will be sent back to the federal government.

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