Home>775Times>Nevada Lawmakers Approved Several Key Federal Aid Allocations, Including $28 Million to Fund Universal Free School Lunches for 2023-24

Nevada Lawmakers Approved Several Key Federal Aid Allocations, Including $28 Million to Fund Universal Free School Lunches for 2023-24

By TheNevadaGlobeStaff, December 15, 2022 9:22 pm

NEVADA – Nevada senators approved several big federal aid allocations on Thursday, including more than $28 million to support an additional year of universal free school lunches for the 2023-24 school year, as well as $11 million for an affordable housing project in Las Vegas’ Historic Westside.

These and other allocations agreed on Thursday diminish Nevada’s $2.7 billion share of flexible funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a federal rescue program passed in March 2021. As Republican Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo prepares to take office next month, he and state legislators will have around $38 million (1.4 percent of the entire amount) in flexible ARP money to deploy by the end of 2024.

Since March 2021, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak and the Democratic-led Legislature have dedicated more than $500 million to housing development, $218 million to pre-K-12 education with a focus on addressing learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than $800 million to a mix of government services, state technology upgrades, and administrative positions.

“This year may go down in history as one of the most productive for the Interim Finance Committee – and one of the most crucial for Nevada residents,” Sisolak said in a statement Thursday. “I am very thankful to the legislators… and to the work of state staff in bringing up these expenditure recommendations, which will have immediate and long-term consequences for Nevadans ranging from housing to food security and so many other things.”

Nearly $123 million remained unallocated as the Interim Finance Committee met on Thursday – a group of politicians who approve spending choices outside of regular legislative sessions. According to statistics from state financial experts with the Legislative Counsel Bureau, that amount included approximately $26 million that had previously been allotted but was not used because actual costs for some goods were lower than projected.

Other significant items approved Thursday included $10 million for Roseman University in Southern Nevada to hire faculty and staff for its new College of Medicine, $7 million to support the construction of a victims of crime center in Las Vegas operated by the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, and more than $35 million to compensate active state employees for furloughs taken during the pandemic.

“The approved items will make a real difference to Nevadans, including ensuring that no child goes hungry at school, funding additional rental assistance and the construction of more affordable housing, and putting extra dollars in the pockets of our overworked and underpaid workers during the holiday season,” Assembly Speaker-elect Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) said in a statement.

The $28 million granted for universal free school lunches is an extension of a program that began during the pandemic. Prior to that, approximately 276,000 Nevada kids were considered eligible for free school meals in the 2019-20 school year, according to data from the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

Since then, state officials have used federal relief monies to nearly increase the size of the program, allowing more than 468,000 students to participate in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program at more than 600 schools. In June, lawmakers approved the use of approximately $76 million in ARP funding to support the free school meals program, which will help finance the program’s operation in the 2022-23 school year and part of the next school year.

The cash authorized on Thursday will cover the remainder of the 2023-24 school year.

“I’m starting with full bellies. That is our number one goal,” said Jennifer Ott, the director of the Department of Agriculture. “Our second focus is waste and quality. So, we’ll work with school districts over the next few years to improve food quality.”

The funds approved by the committee for the Westside housing project only cover a portion of the project dedicated to developing affordable housing units, despite the fact that the entire project will be a “mixed-use microbusiness park” that also includes an office and technology center and co-working space. Clark County is also contributing $15 million to the project.

The housing component of the project will feature 60 rent-restricted units for households earning 60-80 percent of the area median income or less.

The project is projected to be completed by 2026, according to Terry Reynolds, director of Nevada’s Department of Business and Industry.

Aside from the roughly $38 million in ARP flexible state money that remains, an additional $37 million remains set up explicitly for state agency programs, out of a $100 million pot set aside for that purpose.

These monies must be committed to a specific purpose by the end of 2024 and expended by the end of 2026.

Credits: The Nevada Independent

Copyright 2022 775 Times, NV Globe. All rights reserved.

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