Multiple event cancellations creates financial hardship for Omaha

MAHA festival was canceled Tuesday
Posted at 6:21 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 19:21:42-04

OMAHA, Neb. — This year's Maha Festival has officially been canceled due to Coronavirus concerns. This adds to the long list of major events Omaha will now not be able to host. As the cancellations continue piling up, the Omaha city budget continues to take hits.

"With the loss of College World Series, Berkshire Hathaway, swim trials, NCAA, the hotels are closed, the restaurants are closed. We are looking in the multi-," Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert cut off. "I don't even want to say it at this time because it's so high what we're predicting."

The entire country is facing financial hardship in the face of Coronavirus, and Omaha is no exception.

"This is a severe hit to our general fund budget. That's the one that funds all the city departments. A severe hit to it right now," Mayor Stothert added.

"The general fund is generally about $420 million," Omaha councilmember Brinker Harding said. "Of that, about $172 million is from sales tax."

With businesses temporarily closing and major events not bringing large crowds to the area, that revenue is now up in the air.

"We have no way of knowing the magnitude of what that amount might be, but we're going to start making those plans and considerations for how to address that issue for that shortfall," Harding said.

Those plans and considerations could include cuts in spending and layoffs.

"Omaha will recover. Omaha will do fine long term," Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said. "But it's going to be challenging and there will be some cuts in city government. There will have to be. And there may be, I certainly don't want to say whether there will or will not be a tax increase, but we all have to get ready for a little pain."

Fire and police make up almost two thirds of the general fund budget. But officials say public safety is the city's number one priority.

"Basic city services will be maintained, and public safety is number one on that list," Harding added.

There could be federal aid that Omaha is eligible for, but that's up in the air as well, along with how the city will financially recover after the pandemic.

"We want to continue the city operations we want to keep all our employees. But the big question is how are we going to do it right now," Mayor Stothert asked.