Committee Hears Requests for Spending $1 Billion in ARPA Funds

Oct. 5, 2021, 3 p.m. ·

Appropriations Committee hearing
The Appropriations Committee held a hearing on ARPA funds Tuesday (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media)

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Dozens of testifiers asked for a share of more than a billion dollars Nebraska has gotten or expects to receive in COVID-related funding, in a hearing before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee Tuesday.

Sen. John Stinner, chair of the Appropriations Committee, said the state has already gotten an estimated $520 million dollars, and is expecting to get another $520 million under the federal American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, passed earlier this year.

Tuesday’s hearing featured dozens of representatives of organizations ranging from business groups to social service providers, making the case for spending the money on programs they support.

Among the testifiers was David Brown, representing the Omaha, Lincoln and state chambers of commerce. Brown argued for a number of proposals, including expanded support of internships. “Think tens of thousand of interns, as opposed to a thousand, all with a job at the end. That would help retain and attract people to our state,” Brown said.

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter supported that idea, along with others including a rural health center at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

Alana Schriver spoke for the Nebraska Association of Service Providers, which works with developmentally disabled people. Schriver said there are more than 3,000 people on a waiting list for services, because providers can’t afford to hire enough staff. “Our rates are dependent upon the state and Medicaid. Only you have the power to make us more competitive employers who can attract a sufficient workforce that meets the needs of our communities’ most vulnerable individuals, including my own son,” Schriver said.

Other requests for funding ranged from replacing lead water pipes and expanding broadband to affordable housing and charging stations for electric vehicles.

Stinner said Gov. Pete Ricketts will submit legislation for how to spend the money in January, and the Appropriations Committee will then shape a recommendation for consideration by the full Legislature.