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Buffalo County approves COVID funds to help working poor, YMCA project

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YMCA Floor Plan

The child care center at the Kearney YMCA serves 115 to 120, said CEO Ray Longoria, but the number will jump to 170-180 in about one year when an expanded center opens at the “Y.”

KEARNEY — An expanding child care center as well as a program to prevent evictions and utility disconnects will both receive federal COVID-19 stimulus funds via the Buffalo County Board of Commissioners.

County Board members voted Tuesday to award Mid-Nebraska Community Action $50,000 this year and possibly another $50,000 next year for a fund to help people who are temporarily down on their luck.

In addition, the board will appropriate $50,000 to help with expansion of the child care center during the Kearney Family YMCA’s $8.8 million expansion and renovation.

The county’s source for the stimulus funds is the American Rescue Plan Act.

“This money would be for people who are short on a paycheck,” said Tammy Jeffs, director of community services for Mid-Nebraska, also called “Mid.”

Jeffs said an example of a temporary problem would be a factory closing for a couple of weeks until supply chain issues work themselves out. Every week or two the factory waits to reopen means lost wages for employees.

The loss of a single paycheck can cascade into problems for landlords, utility companies and others who are counting on timely payments from tenants and customers, Jeffs said.

Mid-Nebraska’s target for the lost wages program is the working poor, Jeffs said.

“Not everyone has large savings, so this money will keep the economic crash to a minimum,” she said.

The County Board voted to provide $50,000 for the Mid-Nebraska program this year and another $50,000 if it’s needed next year.

The YMCA requested $150,000 in ARPA funds, but the County Board voted to give $50,000.

YMCA CEO Ray Longoria said the renovation and expansion is under way as inflation is doubling many costs on construction projects. As a result, Longoria said, the YMCA’s leadership is working hard to contain costs.

The $50,000 from the county will help build three classrooms to support child care. Currently, the YMCA serves 115-120 children. The number will increase by 60-75 when the expanded facilities open in about one year and boost the number of children served to 170-180.

“We’ve had a waiting list for years,” Longoria said about the YMCA’s child care.

“It’s a huge need for everyone,” Commissioner Sherry Morrow of Kearney said.

Longoria said the YMCA anticipates that expanding child care facilities will cost about $154,000.

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