LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) — For nearly eight hours Tuesday night, members of the unicameral Appropriations Committee heard testimony about how Nebraskanians believe more than $1 billion in federal aid should be spent.
LB 1014 was submitted on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts and outlines how his office estimates $1.7 billion should be spent. In total, the state has received $520 million in U.S. bailout funding and expects to receive another $520 million by May.
To be considered a valid use, attributions must match one of five categories; support public health, negative economic impacts, replace lost income, bonuses for essential workers, and water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
“We would like to see more funds directed to the stated purpose of the laws,” said Laurel Sariscsany, policy analyst at OpenSky. “Tackling long-standing health and economic disparities that have been magnified by the pandemic, especially in disproportionately affected communities.”
The legislature hearing room was filled with members from all different entities, many of whom spoke would benefit from the existing plan, or pointed to where more needed to be done and what could be added in the future.
LB 1014 has all five of these categories outlined by federal statutes. Breaking down where the money would go if it were to pass because it currently sits a big chunk, $504.7 million, would basically be used to stimulate the economy. It would only be for things like workforce development and shovel-ready projects.
On the health care side, there is just under $200 million for the public health response. Who is doing everything from replacing old ambulances to building a joint UNK-HNMC rural health care facility.
It also offers $36.7 million for frontline workers like corrections officers, DHHS employees and those who work for veterans.
“The Governor’s proposed funding for the public health response to COVID is absolutely critical to protecting hospital capacity,” said Jeremy Nordquist, president of the Nebraska Hospital Association. “This should be extended to support the payment of bonuses for our frontline nursing heroes who have remained in our hospitals during the pandemic.”
One of the hottest topics is ARPA money going to education. The way LB 1014 is written now, low-income students would be eligible to get up to $2,000 a year to pay private school tuition, among other things.
“Students of all ages struggle with things like attention regulation, metacognition, and other learning skills, but instead of solving that problem, we’re just giving people money to hang out with. private schools and assume their needs will be met,” Jared Wagenknecht, an audience, said. high school teacher.
LB 1014 and all others that are raised in the Appropriations Committee to use ARPA funds are now to be voted out of Committee to the unicameral whole for debate and vote there. Before more can be spent by recipients.
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