The Nebraska State Capitol Building in Lincoln. (Rebecca S. Gratz for Nebraska Examiner)
LINCOLN — A proposal calling for Nebraska cities to create a five-year anti-poverty plan was met mostly with support Tuesday at a legislative hearing, though a few opponents worried it would be an expensive undertaking for smaller towns.
The Poverty Elimination Action Plan Act was introduced by State Sen. Terrell McKinney to promote upward mobility.
The North Omaha lawmaker, in testimony to the Legislature’s Urban Affairs Committee, said he grew up poor. “It wasn’t easy,” he told committee members. He said he hoped a mandate to establish a more concerted, purposeful strategy would spare another kid from a similar economic journey.
Tina Rockenbach, executive director of Community Action of Nebraska, was among a handful of others voicing support for Legislative Bill 840, which has no funding allocation.
Rockenbach said she recognized the process — which would include community input, goal-setting, data analysis and laying out plans to use public incentives for anti-poverty efforts — was a “heavy lift.”
“The good news,” she said, is that agencies such as hers have done some of the footwork already and could offer that expertise.
Under the act, cities with populations of 50,000 or more would review their reports every two years and update them every five. The bill seeks to develop a statewide and comprehensive poverty elimination action plan that addresses unique challenges of various areas.
Lynn Rex, executive director of the League of Nebraska Municipalities, said her objection to the bill was not a sign that poverty elimination was not important. She said, however, that to pay more than just “lip service,” such studies likely would require a consultant and staffing, which could be a financial struggle, especially for smaller cities.
She suggested providing a funding mechanism and a prototype that would guide cities.
The committee did not take action on the proposal.
Also Tuesday, the Urban Affairs Committee heard support for proposed changes to the “Middle Income Workforce Housing Investment Act.”
Legislative Bill 843 would reduce the match contribution required of eligible applicants from 50% to 25%. It also would increase the maximum grants that the Department of Economic Development could award to nonprofits from $5 million to $10 million in a two-year period.
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