Published Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 | 12:31 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 | 4:54 p.m.
A $500 million initiative using federal pandemic funding will create up to 1,700 affordable housing units in Nevada and help some 7,000 seniors with home repairs and accessibility upgrades, Gov. Steve Sisolak said Wednesday.
“Right now, we have too little supply for a booming demand” in housing, Sisolak said in his State of the State address at Allegiant Stadium.
“In the last decade, more than 400,000 people have moved into Nevada. They know what a great state this is, but we have renters and buyers at all levels who are being squeezed out of the market,” Sisolak said.
Of the $500 million, $300 million will go toward affordable multifamily housing, $130 million will go toward preserving affordable housing, $30 million will increase homeownership opportunities and $40 million will go toward land acquisition for future affordable housing developments, Sisolak said.
“The plan boosts housing construction and homeownership opportunities,” Sisolak said. “It will help seniors retrofit their homes, to lower their costs, improve their property and stay where they want to be.”
The state infrastructure bank is also developing a partnership with the AFL-CIO to invest $20 million toward new housing developments built by union workers.
With the pandemic receding, Nevada is “on the move” in its recovery and has added 94,000 jobs in the last year, Sisolak said.
“Today, our economy is one of the fastest growing in the country,” he said. “Tourism is up, unemployment is down. Our students are back with 100% of our classrooms in person. Gaming revenues are at an all-time high and, more importantly, wages are up too.”
The address is usually delivered at the start of the Nevada Legislative session, which happens every other year and not scheduled until 2023. But Sisolak decided to deliver an address Wednesday to detail the state’s recovery from the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.
“Nevada, I have never been more optimistic about our state or where we are going,” Sisolak said. “Despite two difficult years that have challenged every one of us, again and again I’ve seen incredible acts of kindness, heroic acts of selflessness and a determination to never stop moving forward.”
And that starts with a younger generation.
Sisolak said the state would invest $160 million of federal pandemic relief money to lower the cost of child care and retain staff. The state will also cover the cost of school lunches for all students for the next two years using federal funding, Sisolak said.
He also introduced a funding program for stipends and tuition assistance to help recruit new teachers to the state’s public schools.
“Nevadans deserve the opportunity to go to work knowing their children are safe and have every opportunity to succeed,” Sisolak said.
Sisolak touched on other topics, including the spiking crime rate, which saw a 44% increase in homicides in 2021 in Clark County. “We banned bump stocks, closed the gun show loophole and now require common-sense background checks on all gun sales,” he said. “We secured nearly $12 million in federal funding to recruit more officers, prevent youth crime and more.”
Should he win reelection this year, Sisolak said he would propose an increase in salary during the 2023 session for state troopers, and added he would continue to work with anyone to support police officers and community safety.
“As we work at the state level, we need our local law enforcement agencies to evaluate the crime-fighting programs they have, while our courts and prosecutors help determine the best ways to reduce crime in their communities,” he said.
“If the governor is serious about this critical need, a first step would be voting to approve and fund the category I peace officers collective bargaining agreement (CBA) at his March 8 Board of Examiners meeting. The CBA improves pay, working conditions and training for state police,” the Nevada Police Union, which represents state troopers, said in a statement.
Sisolak’s nearly 20-minute speech also brought promises to create a task force to address the shortage in health care workers, an industry that was taxed during two years of the health crisis brought on by COVID-19.
He additionally said that Nevada would join the Northwest Prescription Drug Consortium to help negotiate with drug companies and lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Lastly, he said the state would invest $500 million in broadband for statewide connectivity, and launch the state’s first-ever small-business accelerator program to help start-ups get off the ground.
“Getting things done always works best when we come together, when we put aside party labels, put down our heads, and get to work,” Sisolak said. “That’s the true Battle Born spirit that has propelled our state forward for the last 157 years. It is what I try to do every day as your governor, and with your help, it’s what will build an even stronger Nevada.”
In the GOP response to Sisolak’s address, Senate Republican leader James Settelmeyer said the $6.7 billion that Nevada has received in pandemic relief assistance from the federal government was “one shot money” that had been used to balloon the size of government and contributed to the inflation and cost of housing increases.
“And will be the bill that you, the residents of Nevada, will be on the hook for when the federal money is gone,” Settelmeyer said.
“Spending money is not leadership,” Settelmeyer said. “Leadership is about making our government more efficient and effective for the people. This money will be spent to grow the government size but with no thought of how to fund that growth when the money is gone.”
Settelmeyer said that although schools hd reopened, young people were still struggling both academically and socially to make up for the lost months. Children also must also worry if their favorite teacher quit over the weekend or if their school bus will be on time due to staff shortages.
“In my four years in the Assembly and 12 years in the Senate, I have never been more concerned about our state’s future,” Settelmeyer said, expressing concern that the legislative doors were closed during the pandemic and that Republicans have been excluded from conversation in the previous two sessions.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.