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Omaha receives $56 million in second round of ARPA funds

Second half to fund affordable housing, improving public parks & pools, additional pay for first-responders & essential personnel
From park to pools, police and fire premium pay, Omaha's mayor announces targets for the next round of American Rescue Act funds.
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 3:27 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The city has received its second round of American Rescue Plan Act funds, Mayor Jean Stothert said Tuesday, and has plans to use it to bolster affordable housing, improve public spaces, and extra pay for essential employees.

The primary use of ARPA money is to help local government replace lost revenue, but the money can also support community programs — especially if COVID-19 impacted them; and public spaces, which can benefit the community as a whole.

“We asked for citizen input on how we should spend the ARP funds,” Stothert said Tuesday. “The No. 1 answer we received from our citizens were improvements to public spaces.”

In May 2021, the city was awarded half of its $112,591,455 in ARPA funds. The mayor confirmed Tuesday that the city received the second half of its allocations — about $56 million — this month. The funds must be spent by 2026.

In this round of funding are allocations for $20 million in affordable housing, $9.5 million in improvements to public spaces, and $9 million in premium pay for eligible first-responders and other critical employees.

By way of short-term loans and grants for those creating affordable-housing options and down-payment assistance, the housing funds will benefit households earning less than 120% of the area’s median income, prioritizing those earning less than 80% of the area’s median income.

According to a Tuesday release from the mayor’s office, the allocations will be distributed specifically via:

  • Short-term loans and grants to increase affordable and mixed-income housing by developing a variety of for-sale and rental affordable housing options across the city
  • Acquisition, site remediation and preparation, and pre-development of properties for affordable housing projects
  • Homebuyer support including down-payment assistance
  • Preservation of existing affordable housing units

Front Porch Investments also plans to match the city’s $20 million with $20 million in philanthropic contributions. The group awarded more than $7.3 million in grants and loans in its first round of funding, the release states.

“Part of working towards solving the problem is increasing capacity as a city for the workforce and all our developers,” said Merideth Dillon with Front Porch. “We need to create the number of affordable housing we have. This funding not only supports the creation of additional units, we’ll also support those organizations to grow.”

The ARPA funds will also aim to support existing affordable-housing units and offer homebuyers support.

“The city will also apply for an additional $20 million available from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), increasing the partnership and allocation of affordable housing to $60 million,” the release states. Those HUD funds would also be distributed via Front Porch Investments.

Funding awards are set to be announced in November, according to the release.

PUBLIC SPACES

The Parks Department selected 10 public spaces to prioritize for improvement via ARPA funds after receiving public input via a survey distributed in 2021. Those parks are:

  • Mandan Park, located at 6215 S. 13th St.
  • Fontenelle Park, located at 4407 Fontenelle Blvd.
  • Pipal Park, located at 7770 Hascall St.
  • Lynch Park, located at 2200 S. 21st St.
  • Paxton-John Creighton Boulevard Trail in Adams Park, located in north Omaha
  • Elmwood Pool, located at 606 S. Happy Hollow Blvd.
  • Hitchcock Pool, located at 5025 S. 45th St.
  • Benson Community Center, located at 6008 Maple St.
  • Memorial Park, located at 6005 Underwood Ave.
  • Clarkson Park, located at 124 N. 42nd St.

PREMIUM PAY

The mayor also included a $9 million “thank you” to city employees for maintaining continuity of city services during the pandemic. Each full-time employee will get $3,000 as “premium pay.” This will include police, fire, and civilian employees, but not elected officials.

The affordable housing and premium allocations are set to be discussed by the City Council at its meeting June 28, with a public hearing set for July 19 and a final vote planned for July 26.

OTHER ITEMS

There are also four initiatives on deck for ARPA funding, which will require City Council approval: Business Improvement Districts, the addition of a homeless services coordinator as well as a housing manager, and $700,000 for the Juvenile Justice Center Plaza.

Deloitte was hired by the city to review its ARPA spending to assure it meets federal guidelines.

“Other requests for funding are still being reviewed to determine whether they qualify,” the release states.

In January, the city provided details for distributing the first round of funding, prioritizing specific communities in which to cover needs like food and shelter assistance, homeless outreach, financial literacy, and access to healthcare, as well as mental and behavioral healthcare. It also provided assistance for Omaha hotels.

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