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KUNR Today: Sisolak pledges investments in housing and child care, Reno approves housing projects

An image of Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak from his State of the State speech.
Gov. Sisolak's Office
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak conducted an off-year State of the State address from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev., Feb. 23, 2022.

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

Sisolak: Nevada to spend relief funds to lower housing, child care costs
By Kaleb Roedel

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak outlined how the state will spend nearly $2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds during a rare, off-year State of the State speech on Feb. 23 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Sisolak, a first-term Democrat up for re-election in November, said relief funds will be used to tackle some of the state’s most critical issues.

“Childcare, housing and health care costs are eating too much of a family's income. It's hard to keep ahead of bills and save for things like college or retirement,” Sisolak said.

Sisolak said the state would spend $500 million to lower housing costs and another $160 million to help lower child care costs. Sisolak also said these plans – and the rest of his proposals – could be accomplished without raising taxes.

In a prerecorded response to the speech, State Senate Republican caucus leader James Settelmeyer says Sisolak is using federal relief dollars as a band-aid for issues that will continue to cost the state once the money is used up.

Reno City Council approves two low-income housing projects
By Lucia Starbuck

Reno City Council held a special meeting on Tuesday to propose some solutions for the region’s affordable housing crisis.

Many Reno residents urged council members to take action to address skyrocketing rent and home prices during public comment. Less than a quarter of Reno residents earn enough to qualify for a median-priced home and the average monthly rent is about $1,600 dollars, according to city staff.

During the meeting, City Council approved several million dollars of federal COVID-19 relief funds toward two low-income housing projects. $2.5 million will go to build nearly 100 dorm-style units to expand The Village On Sage Street. The rent there is $400 a month. Another $2 million is for purchasing and renovating the Highway 40 Motel, which has 35 units. Both projects require additional funding from the state.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Carson High student arrested for bringing gun to campus Wednesday
By Andrew Méndez

Carson City officials arrested a Carson High School student Wednesday for bringing a gun on campus.

There are no reported injuries and the school was not officially put on lockdown, according to a news release from the Carson City School District. The district added that those affected are receiving social and emotional support.

The Carson City Sheriff's office has since opened an investigation into the incident.

Anti-unemployment fraud measures in California face scrutiny
By The Associated Press

California Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration wants to pay tens of millions of dollars this year to stop scammers from stealing unemployment benefits. But the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says state lawmakers should reject Newsom's proposal. They say the fraud prevention tools make it harder for legitimate claimants to get paid. They also said the state's use of facial recognition software has prompted privacy concerns.

Employment Development Director Nancy Farias says it would be a mistake to stop the fraud prevention measures. She says she believes people are underestimating the amount of identity theft happening related to unemployment benefits.

COVID-19 cases continue to decrease in Washoe County
By Lucia Starbuck

COVID-19 cases are continuing to decrease in Washoe County. There has been an average of about 70 new COVID-19 cases per day over the last week. That’s the lowest the county has seen since late July.

Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick said the numbers are 'fantastic' to see, but warns that the county is still experiencing high transmission, according to CDC standards. Dick is again encouraging people to get vaccinated.

“We had people that weren’t able to get boosted because they got omicron and it was too soon after they’d gotten COVID-19 to get the booster shot, so I encourage people to put this back on your list and get boosted,” Dick said.

Nearly 65% of Washoe County residents five years and older are fully vaccinated.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations in Nevada, COVID-19 testing, or view the state COVID-19 dashboard.

Disparities exist in accessing high-quality telehealth
By Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Telehealth services have connected patients across our region with healthcare providers, and demand has surged during the pandemic, but problems with accessing high quality telehealth persist.

Ben Sommers is with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He analyzed months of U.S. Census surveys to understand how people are using these services via phone or computer.

"We see stark disparities in that access to video-enabled telehealth, [including] much higher rates of video services for those with higher incomes, for people with greater educational attainment, [and] for white, non-Latino respondents," he said.

Sommers said addressing this problem requires a concerted effort by local, state and federal governments, and tribal authorities. He added that he believes investments from federal stimulus packages will have a big impact.

Nugget Casino purchased in $195 million deal
By Andrew Méndez

The Nugget Casino Resort, located in Sparks, has been purchased by Century Casinos, along with part of another property, for $195 million.

According to a press release, the Colorado-based company had been looking to enter the Reno market. With this purchase it will acquire over 50,000 square feet of casino space, two hotel towers, 110,000 square feet of convention space, several dining options and more.

The sale comes less than a year after the death of John Ascuaga, a prominent businessman who had owned the property for decades. It was most recently owned by Marnell Gaming.

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