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Stothert: Lost revenue could impact libraries and city pools - even police and fire departments

Posted at 6:34 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 23:12:13-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Like many cities across the country, coronavirus has hit the city of Omaha hard. With an estimated $80 million of lost revenue, the city is doing a number of things to save money, but if it doesn’t get relief from congress soon, Omaha officials might have to make tough decisions.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert says they've done a hiring freeze, a spending freeze and have largely eliminated overtime but that may not be enough. Other things the city is considering are: potentially closing libraries and community centers for the rest of the year, not opening swimming pools at all. They could even furlough city employees and cut fire and police departments if things get bad enough.

"We do have the ability to take up rigs out of service and close fire stations down. that's a public safety issue, I don't want to have to do that. But if we dont have the money that's going to be a big challenge," says Stothert.

Congress already passed the CARES Act, which will help cover COVID-19 related expenses but it doesn't help with lost revenue.

Congressman Don Bacon introduced a bill that would allow cities and counties to use it for that, but it's unclear if it'll pass.

Stothert says things like closing down fire stations are not on the chopping block at the moment, but they might have to be. She says she will prioritize public safety first.

"If it's going to go down to libraries or a police officer or firemen, we're going to have to make tough decisions," says Stothert.

To cover coronavirus-related expenses, the city will be getting some money from the state and county. It’s unclear how much and there seems to be a possibility that negotiations with the county, particularly with Commissioner Chris Rodgers, could get contentious.