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South Omaha merchants get another shot at unclaimed ‘turnback tax’ grants


South Omaha merchants get another shot at unclaimed ‘turnback tax’ grants

Mar 17, 2023 | 7:54 pm ET
By Cindy Gonzalez
South Omaha merchants get another shot at unclaimed ‘turnback tax’ grants
A mural on a building in a South Omaha plaza at 24th and N Streets, which is among project sites and organizations set to benefit from ARPA funding form Douglas County. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

OMAHA — Entrepreneurs in South Omaha are getting another shot at applying for about $36,000 in grant money left in limbo after nobody asked for those state “turnback tax” funds last year.

Applicants have until early afternoon on April 6 to submit paperwork. Recipients are to be notified later that month.

South Omaha merchants get another shot at unclaimed ‘turnback tax’ grants
Roger Garcia, Douglas County Board member (Courtesy of Douglas County)

Speculating on why the money was left on the table, Douglas County Board member Roger Garcia told the Nebraska Examiner previously that perhaps merchants weren’t aware of a change in Nebraska’s turnback tax rules that opened up a new category of funding.

He said then that he was waiting on a legal opinion on how to rectify the situation.

Change in the law

State lawmakers last year amended the Nebraska Convention Center Facility Financing Assistance Act, which calls for much of state sales tax revenue collected by hotels and retailers within a certain distance of a convention center to be “turned back” to political subdivisions to pay off debt for the facilities.

In addition, the act provides that 10% of the turnback funds received by the City of Omaha be used in areas of high poverty.

Before last year’s amendment, all of that 10% went to youth anti-violence and historical preservation projects in North and South Omaha. The new change specifies that 45% of the turnback tax funds should now go to assist small business and entrepreneurial growth in the two communities.

While North Omaha groups applied and received funding under that new small business category, South Omaha groups did not, Garcia said. Thus remained the $36,000 in unclaimed money for South Omaha.

Garcia — who is on the South Omaha turnback tax committee, along with City Councilman Vinny Palermo and a few South Omaha representatives — said the application process for entrepreneurs in that area has been reopened through the April 6 deadline.

(Various South Omaha applicants did apply for, and received, about $42,000 for the historical preservation and anti-violence category. North Omaha groups applied for and received nearly $88,000 in the 2022-23 turnback tax grants, a total amount that represented both the historical/anti-violence category and the small business category.)

Another entrepreneur fund

On a separate note, Garcia said, about $285,000 remains available (in $2,500 grant increments) for small businesses in his South Omaha district via a different funding source: the American Rescue Plan Act.

Garcia assigned that pot of funds to the Nebraska Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation to distribute on his behalf, and, he said, the chamber currently is accepting applications. 

That funding came from his allotment of discretionary ARPA dollars. Each of the Douglas County commissioners was provided $2.5 million to direct toward their respective districts, as part of the broader $110.8 million in ARPA funds that went to Douglas County.