Ricketts Announces Application Process for CARES Act Grants

June 12, 2020, 5:34 p.m. ·

Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Steve Wellman (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

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Governor Pete Ricketts said Friday small businesses and livestock producers can begin applying next week for $12,000 grants to help stabilize businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

The money for the grants comes from federal CARES Act dollars, part of 1.25 billion the state is getting from that program. Friday’s announcement provided details on how people can apply for almost $400 million of that. Applications will be available on the website getnebraskagrowing.nebraska.gov. There’s also a phone number you can call for more information: 855-264-6858.

Some $230 million will be available to small businesses with 5 to 49 employees, and another $100 million to livestock producers, including sole proprietors, with up to 10 employees. Agriculture Director Steve Wellman explained why, with all of the industry hurting including grain growers and ethanol producers, livestock producers are the focus of the grants.

“We decided to focus in on livestock, and we decided to do that because livestock is the customer for the grains. It's also the recipient of the distillers grains from ethanol and helps make that full circle from corn ethanol to cattle and other livestock and other livestock,” Wellman said.

Wellman acknowledged the money is only a small part of the losses suffered in agriculture through lower prices for grain and livestock during the pandemic – losses the Nebraska Farm Bureau estimates could reach $3.7 billion in the state. And he said the the situation is worsened coming on the heels of last year’s flooding, but there are some signs of improvement.

More details on grant programs (Source: Nebraska governor's office)

“It’s tough … especially coming off the back of last year's flooding and the damage from last year's floods, man, talk about two devastating hits back to back on agriculture, it's been a struggle to say the very least, and so we hope that we're moving forward out of this and it seems like on the …meat processing side of it, our capacities are picking back up and we're getting really close, especially on the beef, we're getting really close across the United States to being at 100% capacity,” Wellman said.

The CARES Act money also includes $16 million for workforce retraining, to help unemployed and underemployed workers find jobs in high demand careers and industries. Ricketts said the emphasis would be on trades and technical fields, with scholarships averaging $1,100 for training at community colleges. The governor was asked if jobs would be available once students completed training, or if those jobs have been eliminated by the pandemic.

“What we’re hearing, in western Nebraska for example, is they’re running into workforce shortages again already -- that they’re looking at getting people into these jobs. So I think that (what) were expecting is that folks will start taking this training here throughout the course of this year and maybe into early next year and then as we address the issues of the pandemic, hopefully there’s a vaccine, the economy continues to build up speed, that we’ll be coming back to the same issues we were having prior to the pandemic, which was where we had a workforce shortage,” Ricketts said.

Friday’s announcement also included information on $40 million worth of grants available to improve rural broadband access, and $1 million for training by the Gallup Organization for managers on how to succeed in the “new normal.”