OMAHA — Inspired by the number of north Omaha merchants seeking Nebraska grants to boost their businesses, City Councilwoman Juanita Johnson on Tuesday urged the City Council to commit $1 million to the city's efforts. requested.
The request was not supported by other council members, who said it came too late in the city's budget approval process.
After hearing feedback from about 15 supporters, Council Vice President Amy Melton said she could not support “moving $1 million at the last minute.”
Johnson's request would shift funding in the proposed annual budget away from things like library and park allocations to small business development initiatives that she argues are key to economic growth in the district and citywide. We are asking you to move to support us.
Under Johnson's proposal, $1 million would go to the nonprofit Omaha 100, which would use and distribute the money to help minority businesses grow.
Johnson, whose district includes North Omaha, was attending a community forum over the weekend where voters wanted clarity on the state's plan to inject $225 million in grants for economic development in North and South Omaha. Ta.
She said the recommendations to council were intended to “reflect” the state's commitment to communities that have been historically neglected and made worse by the pandemic.
Supporters Tuesday included state Sen. Terrell McKinney, the state bill's sponsor. The Nebraska Department of Economic Development is currently determining how to allocate state funds provided by the Nebraska Economic Recovery Act.
Other speakers included Frank Hayes, who owns an accounting firm in Omaha. He said many minority-owned businesses are still struggling because they don't understand the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which is meant to help retailers survive during the pandemic.
Omaha 100 President and CEO Malinda Williams said her research found that only 53 minority-owned businesses received PPP loans in 2020, including Nebraska-based businesses. He said that this amounted to 1.27% of the total company.
Businessman James Overton said while Johnson's request did not cover that need, it was “still a boost”.
Johnson said he will continue to work on the city's funding for small business ventures, an area that was neglected when Omaha previously allocated federal pandemic funds.
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