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Public hearings on ARPA distribution in Omaha: 'We’re asking the community to solve its own problems'

There will be a total of four hearings in various locations across the city
Posted at 7:21 PM, Sep 19, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska Senator Justin Wayne — along with a special committee dedicated to distributing a large portion of $355 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding — wants residents in North and South Omaha to be part of the process when it comes to ARPA funds distribution.

"We’re hopefully providing guideposts for the future," Wayne said. "What’s different about anything else is we’re asking the community to solve its own problems."

The first of four public hearings on the matter was held Monday at the Metropolitan Community College South Omaha campus. Some residents came in with plans on how they’d best like to use a portion of the money to benefit their respective communities.

Itzel Lopez, a South Omaha resident and board president of the Latino Economic Development Council, said she presented a plan to improve the Plaza De La Raza area near South 24th and N Streets as well as adding a community center and mixed-use facility in the area.

North Omaha resident and young business owner A'Ron Burns said he hopes to use a portion of the funds to acquire land to use toward business development.

Others said they hoping the funding will go towards addressing social issues.

"We need affordable housing," Donna Vaughn, North Omaha resident said. "I would like to also see some of that money go to transcendental meditation and community gardens so we can feed each other."

All are deeply engaged in the process and understand that an opportunity like this doesn’t come every day.

Residents said they want to be intentional about where the funding goes, to provide the best benefit.

"People are understanding that we have to solve the economic problems before we can solve the social problems," Wayne said.

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