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Douglas County board still deciding how to spend $166 million in CARES Act money

Posted at 6:52 PM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 19:52:49-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Douglas County board has $166 million to use from the federal government. They can use it for anything related to COVID-19.

Tuesday morning, they discussed a variety of options for the money.

The preliminary plan includes giving $25 million to the city of Omaha, with hopes the state matches that amount.

The plan the county is looking at over $40 million in upgrades to the Douglas County Health Center. But Commissioner Mike Boyle wants to go to a new mental health hospital in the county.

“We got so many calls about that and I think we have an opportunity I think with UNMC to do something about that,” says Boyle.

But Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson says the health center needs some of the funds.

“We have lots of capital expenditures that we need to worry about because we are taking care of people 24/7,” says Borgeson.

She points to six patients of the facility dying of COVID-19.

She’s in favor of a variety of improvements, including isolation rooms, automatic faucets and light switches and improving the the air flow, if coronavirus has a second wind.

“When we get this second round, we even do better than we did the first time around,” says Borgeson.

Boyle agrees that some of the money should go there, but is prioritizing a mental health hospital, rent assistance and helping small businesses.

“We gotta figure that out and I like boilers, they’re fine, but if it comes to that over people, I’m for helping people first,” says Boyle.

Board chair Clare Duda also says he would like to fund a new mental health facility, but is worried they wouldn't be able to pay for it by the end of year, something the CARES Act requires.

“I’m not saying that we give up but so far it looks like we would not be able to do that,” says Duda

They also are looking to set aside $20 million for rent assistance and to help the homeless, with some of it possible going to non-profits.

Next week the board plans on hiring an accounting firm to streamline the process and says they could begin spending those federal funds as soon as two weeks from today.

The initial county plan also has $46 million saved “for future needs.”

The state of Nebraska also has over $1 billion to use for the same purpose.