Weekly Column

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Federal grants help Nebraska communities grow. Research has advanced and allowed us to discover lifesaving cures. Students have been given educational opportunities that otherwise would have been out of their reach. And we’ve built a transportation system that enables Americans to get where they need to go on a daily basis.

One of my responsibilities in the United States Senate is to identify where federal grants could help improve Nebraska communities and then advocate for these communities. The Good Life has urban and rural areas that can take advantage of these investments. I’m proud to report on where a few federal grants dollars are headed to help better communities across our state.

For example, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) recently awarded a $210,000 grant to the Omaha Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency. The EDA’s investment award will allow for the implementation of a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. It will ensure local leaders have more resources to bolster economic partnerships between public and private sectors.   

Additionally, I was pleased that the EDA awarded a nearly $400,000 grant to Metropolitan Community College. These resources will help the college create a training hub for digital design, prototyping, and sustainable technology. The project includes a remodel of an existing facility to help provide hands-on, experimental learning. This investment will create more job opportunities and economic development in the region.

Taxpayer dollars are also headed back to more rural regions of our state. Recently, the Broken Bow Municipal Airport received a competitive federal grant of over $2.5 million from the Department of Transportation. Our airports in Nebraska are vital in keeping rural America connected. This much-needed funding will help ensure that local residents can fly safely on a new and improved runway.

In western Nebraska, a well-deserved grant award will now help grow and build Native American businesses in Chadron. The Department of Agriculture announced that the Chadron Native American Center Inc. will receive a grant of more than $158,000. This rural development investment will be used to train and support small Native American businesses with marketing skills, value-added food production training, and the production of a makerspace to create arts and crafts. The makerspace will accommodate additional training areas that will include a kitchen area for training on food products to be sold at farmers markets.

The main focus of this project will be Native American-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in Dawes and Sheridan Counties. It’s expected to assist at least nine businesses and create or save 18.5 full-time equivalent jobs within the next three years.

The Hope Crisis Center in Fairbury, which provides refuge and support for victims of domestic and sexual abuse, is also receiving more support. With the spread of our nation’s opioid crisis, some of these victims are often exposed to the evils of drug abuse. The Department of Agriculture announced the Hope Crisis Center will receive a grant of nearly $84,000, which will allow the center to invest in improvements such as new, spacious counseling and interview rooms. The Hope Crisis Center provides a safe haven for victims of abuse in seven counties in Nebraska.

Good things are coming to Nebraska communities. These recent investments will provide critical healing, more jobs, and a boost to commerce in these areas. As this year continues, I look forward to hearing from you about where Congress can provide a helping hand. When our local communities are improving, our entire country reaps the benefits. I will continue to fight to ensure that no community, no matter the size, feels like they're being left behind.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.