Weekly Column

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has interrupted our booming economy. For many families, this is a time of uncertainty, frustration, and anxiety in our state and across the country. While we remain hopeful that the return to business as usual is on the horizon, fighting this pandemic and keeping the economy afloat is challenging. But Nebraskans are optimists, and we know that even though we find ourselves in difficult times, there is still good news worth celebrating.

On August 11, the Federal Transit Administration announced that it had awarded nearly $13.6 million in federal funds to the Transit Authority of the City of Omaha. This grant will allow the city to replace old buses with new ones, with the goal of reducing costs and improving safety and reliability. This will help people in the metro area get where they need to go, whether they’re going to work, running errands, or visiting family.

The positive new developments extend beyond Nebraska’s largest city. Recently, the Department of Agriculture announced that agricultural producers who have been approved for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP, will receive the remainder of their relief payments. 

The CFAP was created by the CARES Act, which Congress passed at the end of March, and it is designed to provide temporary relief to producers who have been hit by coronavirus-related declines in the prices of their products.

To make sure that they were able to provide this assistance to as many producers as possible, USDA initially paid 80 percent of what it owed to farmers and ranchers across the country. But as of the beginning of August, USDA had paid out only $6.8 billion of the $19 billion the program had made available.

The August 11 announcement from USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue is welcome news. USDA will automatically issue the remaining 20 percent of payments to producers who have already been approved, and going forward, they will pay newly approved producers 100 percent of what they are owed once their application for the program is approved.

In so many ways, agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy. Its success benefits all Nebraskans, in urban and suburban areas as much as in rural ones. And in the same vein, dense urban areas such as Omaha and Lincoln are crucial for the state as a whole.

The news of millions of dollars of federal transportation funding is great for Omaha, and the CFAP news is great for all of us. Even as we continue to make sacrifices to fight COVID-19, it is important to remember that good things are still happening for Nebraska.

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