LINCOLN, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) — A total of 76 nonprofit organizations have been awarded portions of the unprecedented, $115 million in “shovel ready” grants by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.
The grants, designed to help projects held up by the COVID-19 pandemic, were made public Thursday by the department, which reviewed about $335 million in grant applications by 125 groups, ranging from art museums and music venues to youth sports complexes and wildlife centers.
The two largest grants, $12.7 million each, were awarded to the Nebraska Multisports Complex in La Vista, a multi-field facility for regional youth sports tournaments, and the Columbus Community Hospital’s Fieldhouse Sports Complex.
Two YMCAs, one in Hastings and one in Beatrice, received $5 million each, as did a wellness center project in Seward. Other notable grants went to the Kearney YMCA ($4.5 million), “The Gardens” project at Yanney Park in Kearney ($4.2 million) and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Josyln Art Museum ($3.8 million each).
The Yorkshire Playhouse in York received the smallest grant, $6,000, followed by $30,000 granted to the Terry and Hazeldeane Carpenter Intergenerational Center in Terrytown and $37,000 for the Fremont Area Art Association.
This year, the Nebraska Legislature earmarked $100 million of its allocation of $1 billion in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act for qualifying nonprofit groups whose planned museums, sports complexes and other projects linked to arts, recreation and the humanities were interrupted by the pandemic.
The $100 million in ARPA funds was on top of $15 million in state funds approved in 2021 in Legislative Bill 566, the Shovel-Ready Capital Recovery and Investment Act. That bill was sponsored by State Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha.
It was an unprecedented windfall of funds for nonprofit organizations that typically rely on donations and private grants to complete expansion or construction projects.
McDonnell said Thursday that the DED, which made the final funding decisions, did a good job of following the legislative intent, which was to distribute the funds evenly among the state’s three congressional districts, and to prioritize grant applications of $5 million or less.
“I know Tony Goins (the DED director), and the staff over there, was trying to be as logical and fair to everyone,” the senator said.
Nonprofits were required to have raised private funds to match the ARPA request, dollar for dollar. The bill also requires construction to begin by June 30 and to demonstrate that the pandemic hurt their fund-raising effort.
McDonnell said about 11% of the state’s workforce is employed by a nonprofit corporation, so granting them funds will have a broad impact on construction and the state’s economy.
“The idea is trying to get some of these projects up and moving and helping the economy,” he said. It was designed as a public-private partnership, with the state providing “the last dollars in,” according to McDonnell.
Editor’s note: This has been updated to correct the number of organizations receiving funding.
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