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Governor Visits LCO to Announce $4.6M Grant to Help 32-Unit Workforce Housing Apartment Complex

By Joe Morey

News Editor


The LCO Tribe welcomed Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Thursday morning, July 7, as he announced a $4.6 million grant recently awarded to Lac Courte Oreilles from the Workforce Innovation Grant Program.


LCO Chairman Louis Taylor said the grant will be used for water infrastructure that will support building of a 32-unit apartment building on the reservation as well as any future housing communities along a loop from the Four Corners area to Hwy B, to the Sevenwinds Casino and back down Hwy K.


The aim of the grant award was to help the LCO Tribe provide affordable housing to support a growing demand for workers in the community.


“This housing project will create a variety of housing opportunities and will be situated to ensure residents have direct access to Tribal services, are close to area employers, and have transportation options that fit their needs, including public transportation routes, biking, and walking paths,” announced a press release from Governor Evers.


An event took place announcing the award at the LCO Ojibwe College Cultural Center where Evers, the LCO Tribal Governing Board, LCO ARPA Coordinator Brian Bisonette, Grants Director Jordan St. Germaine, Secretary of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Missy Hughes, and Secretary of the Wisconsin Workforce Development, Amy Pechacek, all spoke about the grant and what it means to the LCO Community.


Evers said his office is committed to a strong partnership with the Tribes. He said during the pandemic he held weekly meetings with tribal leadership and it helped him understand the need for child care, transportation and affordable housing in the tribal communities to help them sustain an adequate workforce.


“Although the pandemic brought these challenges to light,” Evers explained. “They weren’t new challenges.”


Evers said in a press release ensuring folks across our state have access to affordable, reliable housing and clean, safe drinking water is a critical part of our work to connect the dots and build strong communities across our state, and this project is a great example of doing just that.


“This workforce housing initiative has been thoughtfully designed to meet the unique needs of the local community and region, including ensuring that residents will have ample access to Tribal services, transportation, and local jobs. I am proud to support this project to help families thrive, both in the workforce and at home.”


The announcement builds on the governor’s previous investments to support several community development projects with the LCO Tribe. These investments include more than $860,000 through the Equitable Recovery Grant Program and the Beyond the Classroom Grant Program for the Boys and Girls Club of Lac Courte Oreilles to increase staff support and additional resources for youth with a focus on culturally informed mental health programming, more than $3 million through the Neighborhood Investment Fund to construct a new center to serve the Tribe’s elder community, and $5 million through the Healthcare Infrastructure Capital Investment Grant Program to increase tribal health services by making pharmacists more immediately available to clinic providers and patients.


ARPA Coordinator Brian Bisonette acknowledged the work of the LCO Grants Department which is directed by Jordan St. Germaine. He said their hard work has been responsible for so many grants brought to the LCO Tribe.


“LCO has seen extensive growth over the past 30 years and many of our people have wanted to come home but it has been a struggle to meet the housing needs. The LCO TGB has made it a priority that these housing needs are met,” Bisonette stated.


In a power point presented at the event, Bisonette showed the housing shortage is critical at Lac Courte Oreilles and people are desperate. Households are doubled & tripled up; teachers and other professionals have no place to live. A 2019 survey indicated that nearly one-third (32.2%) of tribal homes were doubled up or more – twice the national native data.


“This grant helps to meet critical affordable housing needs of the tribal workforce by developing housing close to employers, a childcare center, schools, and a health center,” Bisonette stated.


St. Germaine showed several recent grants also awarded to LCO, which included a $5 million health care infrastructure grant to fund the down payment for Contracted Construction Services to build a new LCO Health Center at Lac Courte Oreilles with adequate space to enhance and expand health services. Those enhanced services include pediatrics, obstetrics, orthopedic, and psychiatric care. Service expansions include collaborative management of hypothyroidism, diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and expanding tobacco dependence treatment.


St. Germaine also shared news about a $3,134,320 Neighborhood Investment Grant that was also awarded to LCO to fund a larger, accessible Elder facility in Reserve with space for improved and expanded services for the elder population such as exercise/rehabilitation areas, individual/small group counseling, congregate meals and socialization activities, cultural support, recreational activities, elderly care, and dementia care.


Additionally, St. Germaine said an Equitable Recovery Grant to the Lac Courte Oreilles Boys and Girls Club was awarded in the amount of $711,594. This grant funding will be used to purchase a bus to meet the community transportation needs, allowing more youth to attend the Boys and Girls Club where healthy lifestyles are promoted. Funding is also provided for additional staff that provide youth programming to reduce risky behaviors such as suicide prevention, violence prevention, substance abuse prevention, and mental health awareness.


Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Institute was also awarded $489,031 as part of the Equitable Recovery Grant.


The total grant awards to the Tribe by the State of Wisconsin were $13,860,945.

Secretary Pechacek of the Wisconsin Department Workforce Development said they saw 6 months of steady job growth in the state, but there are still businesses struggling to fill vacancies.


“They still need help removing these barriers of child care, transportation and housing,” Pechacek stated. These grants to LCO will help that situation.


“Congratulations to LCO on your amazing proposal and your vision,” Pechacek said.