OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - The Douglas County Board has unanimously approved $30 million in CARES Act spending for the city of Omaha.
The move ensures the city will not have to layoff first responders.
Omaha Finance Director Steve Curtiss said Gov. Pete Ricketts plans to match whatever the county board gave the city.
The Douglas County Board approved giving $30 million of its $166 million in CARES Act money to the city of Omaha.
“I do hope this can be the beginning of a closer relationship with the city,” says Commissioner PJ Morgan.
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Jean Stothert says fire and police would have been laid off if they didn’t get the money, saying they make up 62 percent of the city’s general fund budget.
“We were just kind of holding our breath and cutting back as much as we could and finding out how much that could be but we could not finish out the end of the year without layoffs,” says Stothert.
So why did this deal take months?
Douglas County Board chair Clare Duda says they needed to make sure police and fire would be covered under the CARES Act.
Otherwise they could only give the city around $4 million.
"Until the guidelines got revised we were very limited on what we were going to be able to do for them,” says Duda.
The city also plans on reopening the libraries with the money. They'll open four of the larger branches in about four weeks. They plan to open all of them up by October 1st.
The city has lost about $75 million in revenue this year, and it's possible another $2 million could be tacked on for the cancellation of the College World Series. Finance Director Curtiss said the city is in talks with the NCAA about who is responsible for that loss.
The board rescinded a previous purchase of a mobile command center that would be used for coronavirus vaccinations. Some commissioners feared it was just for sheriff department and police purposes.
The purchase was rescinded because it wasn’t guaranteed the vehicle would be in use by the end of the year, something the CARES Act requires.
Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson wants to use the $1.8 million for mental health services.
The board also approved $5 million to the Henry Doorly Zoo.
Improvements include cameras and sensors for capacity management, conference system upgrades, mobile radios, touch appliances, upgraded air handling systems, PPE, virtual education, marketing and other improvements to meet directed health measure requirements.
The board also provided an update on the rent assistance program. They’ve approved assistance for 282 households totaling $536,000. The average monthly assistance is $1,900.
The program has about $10 million in its coffers. It's most commonly used by people in the North Omaha and Benson areas.
The board also passed a resolution supporting the recent Supreme Court decision related to protection of LGBTQ workers from discrimination. The resolution was passed unanimously.
Board Chair Clare Duda says one reason it took time, is because it allowed the county to learn of revised guidelines and allow them to give more money.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 25, 2020
Stothert says she initially thought the city's revenue loss would be around $90 million...turns out it's closer to 72 million.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 25, 2020
Stothert says opening libraries is especially important right now, since schools are remote. Now students will be able to use the libraries for education.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 25, 2020
They're still looking to bring the part-time employees back. Says it will look different in the libraries: plexi-glass barriers, removed seating, etc....— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 25, 2020
The hope is to reopen everything by October 1st.
Recreations manager Tracy Stratman says more community centers will be opening up through October, 2-3 at a time.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 25, 2020
A few opened up earlier this summer.
The Mayor is also handing out the profits the city made from pools being opened this summer to the Food Bank of the Heartland.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 25, 2020
The total amount is $104,650.
The philanthropic community funded the opening of the pools, with the condition the profits would be donated.
Stothert says some police were moved from the traffic division to enforce compliance of the mask mandate.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 25, 2020
Says they could get reimbursed for it, since it's a covid related expense.
Stothert says they were "very close" to layoffs...saying she couldn't have gotten to the end of the year without layoffs.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 25, 2020
Pretty stark comment from Stothert.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 25, 2020
She says she's hearing the hotels and motels in Omaha may not be back to 100% "for years."
This is going to be going along for awhile.
Stothert asked about the mask mandate being extended past September.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 25, 2020
"I do believe it should."
She doesn't rule out seeking it through the end of the year.