NEBRASKA CITY — Nebraska City received a nice slice of change from the federal government for pandemic relief when the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) was passed by Congress.

ARPA funds total nearly $1.3 million, nearly half of which has already been received. The second half of the funds will be distributed in July.

City Administrator Lou Leone spent time discussing possible uses of ARPA funds with attendees of Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce’s monthly Hot Topics meeting.

The federal government was responsible for deciding how much money each community would receive.

Leone said the government allocated the money on a pro-rata basis for the city of Nebraska based on an old population figure, which was about $1,700 per person.

The funds can be used for a number of things in the city, but they also come with a few stipulations about what they can’t be used for.

Some of the items the funds cannot be used for include, but are not limited to, tax reduction, debt repayment, and government employee pension increases.

On the other hand, potential uses range from future pandemic preventive measures to economic development.

The city has been in contact with other communities to gather information about their ideas for spending the funds and what they are hearing from their community members.

Leone said public meetings have been held in recent weeks to gather more information and ideas from the community.

A third public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Rowe Memorial Safety Complex.

Leone encouraged the community to attend to continue to have their say on how the funds should be spent.

Leone added that town hall meetings are useful because the city is exposed to ideas that it might not have thought of on its own.

Some ideas floated at previous town hall meetings include waterfront development, support for local businesses, childcare and workforce housing.

But the money doesn’t have to be all used for one specific thing. And it can be divided into any number of percentages and assigned to multiple items.

Leon: “[The money] does not need to be used in one place, but it must be used. As a city, we have until December 31, 2024 to designate it, and then we have until December 31, 2026 to fully spend it.”

If the money is not spent by the 2026 deadline, the city issues a check to the state for the remaining amount. The state would then decide how the money is spent.

Additional town hall meetings are possible, Leone says, because the city wants to provide as many opportunities as possible for people to speak out.

Leone: “I’m looking to have a Saturday [town hall] meeting too. The idea is that some people work during the day and might not be able to make it to evening meetings. And some people work evenings.”

When the city council reaches consensus on the final designations for the use of the funds, a vote will take place to decide where the money goes.

Leone mentioned that barring another pandemic, the money received provides an important opportunity for the city of Nebraska to invest in the community.

Leone: “It’s a unique deal, what do we want to do with it?”