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Legislature contemplates ARPA fund spending

 

March 31, 2022



The legislature gave second-round approval to budget bills this past week, working late each evening. This will allow the budget to be read on Final Reading next week, meeting the requirement to have it passed by the 50th legislative day. The budget provides funding to cover salary increases recently negotiated with the union and the state for employees at correctional facilities and other 24/7 facilities that were experiencing dangerous staffing shortages. Worker shortages and competition also necessitated provider rate increases for nursing homes, behavior health providers, developmental disability providers and juvenile justice providers. Very few adjustments were made to the Appropriations Committee’s recommended budget.

The Appropriations Committee also submitted its recommendations for spending the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds in committee amendments to LB 1014. LB 1014, as introduced, contained the governor’s proposals for spending the $1.04 billion in federal funding resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of recommendations from the committee mirrored the governor’s suggestions. Both the governor and the committee recommended $100 million in funding for shovel-ready capital projects, funding for workforce housing, workforce development in community colleges, assistance to small and medium meat processors and funding for a Rural Health Complex at UNK.

Unlike the governor, the Appropriations Committee recommended $55 million for competitive wages for providers of developmental disability services, similar to the pay rate for State of Nebraska employees who recently received a significant raise due to severe staff shortages. Furthermore, $55 million was recommended for supplemental incentive payments for direct-care staff employed at licensed and Medicaid-certified nursing home facilities. The Appropriations Committee also included $150 million for qualified census tracts, to be used for entrepreneurship, housing, employment, job creation and small business assistance. This is meant to help North and South Omaha.

Since there is a set amount of federal ARPA funding, the speaker of the legislature required senators offering amendments to LB 1014, to also specify which program(s) would be cut in order to fund their proposal. Only a couple of amendments were successful, adding funding for additional mental health care capacity, nurses’ scholarships and loan repayments for health professionals.

I was able to obtain $7 million in ARPA funding for the Cedar Knox Rural Water Project through a successful amendment to LB 1014. The governor had included $60 million for drinking water projects in his recommendations, even mentioning the Cedar Knox Rural Water Project in his State of the State address.

SEE: Gragert | Page 8

However, the Appropriations

 

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