- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - State officials say they’re ready to break ground on a 96-bed veterans’ nursing home in Reno this spring, but whether construction actually begins then will depend on limited pot of federal money and how high Nevada’s request falls on a long priority list.

Gus Nunez of the Nevada Public Works Division said Wednesday that Nevada recently learned there was no more leftover federal money for the planned Northern Nevada Veterans Home in the current fiscal year, and funding in the fiscal year that starts in October is “iffy.”

Nevada lawmakers allocated $14 million in state funds to the planned nursing home, and state officials said at the time that they expected a $34 million federal match would help them finish the project as early as late 2016.

“Absolutely unacceptable,” Republican state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer said Wednesday about the delay. “This is something that the veterans in our state have been looking forward to and have been asking for a long time.”

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval sent letters this week asking for help from all six of Nevada’s congressional delegation members and the chairmen of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees. He noted that President Barack Obama’s budget of $80 million next year for veterans nursing homes is well below historical funding levels that were closer to $250 million, and argued that northern Nevada’s veterans are especially underserved according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Nevada Department of Veterans Services Director Kat Miller said that while she requested funding in the current budget cycle, she didn’t expect to get it due to the limited amount of money available for similar construction projects. She also said she was optimistic about Nevada’s chances going forward, and believes “we’re exactly where we hoped to be.”

“If we don’t get the (fiscal year) 2016 dollars, I believe we’ll get the (fiscal year) 2017 dollars,” Miller said.

Nevada’s project ranked 94th on a national priority list for the money this year. The state contribution approved by the Legislature will bump it up to the first tier of the priority list, which includes 53 projects this year, Miller said.

Federal officials are expected to release a fresh priority list this fall, giving preference to states with larger raw numbers of underserved veterans. The state should know by the end of 2015 whether the veterans home will be able to start building this spring.

Nevada’s $14 million state investment was out of reach a few years ago during the economic downturn, but was approved this spring along with other major budget initiatives after lawmakers passed a $1.1 billion tax package. The new nursing home would be a northern Nevada version of one operating in Boulder City in southern Nevada.

Sandoval signed the spending measure into law during a June ceremony at the American Legion Post in Reno.

Caleb Cage, Sandoval’s director of military and veterans policy at the time, said the allocation “would not have happened unless the governor hadn’t said repeatedly, ‘We will not let this go.’”

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