Legislation introduced to provide financial support to small grocers


Carlie Jonas, policy associate, carliej@cfra.org, 402.687.2100, ext. 1032; Teresa Hoffman, senior communications associate, teresah@cfra.org, 402.687.2100, ext. 1012 

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA – Legislation introduced Jan. 10 in the Nebraska Legislature seeks to provide resources to small grocery store owners fighting to keep their stores open amidst economic and workforce challenges and competition from big box retailers.

The Nebraska Grocer Reinvestment Option (GRO) Act, introduced by Sen. Teresa Ibach as Legislative Bill (LB) 1116, would establish a grant and loan program to help locally owned grocery and convenience stores selling perishable foods invest in their businesses.

“Grocery stores are an integral part of the community, providing essential resources as well as economic and social benefits,” said Carlie Jonas, policy associate for the Center for Rural Affairs. “Since the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, supply chain issues, and increased online shopping have strained local grocers, especially in rural areas. LB 1116 would provide financial support and technical assistance to ensure long-term sustainability for stores.”

If the bill passes, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture will administer the grant and loan program. Eligible grocery and convenience stores must be located in underserved communities, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Research Atlas as geographic areas where at least 500 people, or 33% of the population, live more than 10 miles from the nearest grocer in rural areas, or one mile in urban areas. The business must also employ 25 or fewer full-time-equivalent staff.

Jonas said the GRO Act offers flexibility for how the funds can be used. Eligible expenses include upgrades or repairs to facilities, equipment, or systems that will help grocers with cost savings and business efficiency.

“Since each location has unique needs, a one-size-fits-all model would not be effective,” Jonas said, adding there are 320,000 Nebraska residents living in areas with low grocery access. “The GRO Act would help recipients fully understand the evolving needs of their customers, implement new business practices, promote the business effectively, find alternative product sourcing, and/or develop their workforce through enhanced training.”

Priority consideration will be given to businesses that are located in low- to moderate-income communities, have the ability to provide matching funds for at least half of the total project cost, and demonstrate a commitment to accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).