NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Megan Hunt

Sen. Megan Hunt

District 8

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at mhunt@leg.ne.gov

Dear friends and neighbors,

Black lives matter. This obvious truth has to be said because day after day, Black lives are taken by the hands of the state. We know their names, we’ve seen their faces, and we’ve shared their stories. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and countless others murdered by those we entrust to protect and serve the public.

Last night, peaceful protesters took to the streets in Omaha. That didn’t stop officers from using tear gas and rubber bullets against the crowds gathered to protest the very thing law enforcement brought to them: violence.

In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist. And white people can and must do more to push their capacity for rejecting, challenging, and dismantling the violent racist structures that our silence allows to persist. We built this system and we have a duty to tear it down to build a better, safer future for our brothers and sisters. We must show up to these protests in solidarity; not as allies but as accomplices. The problems we face today can only be solved if white Americans comprehend the rigid social, economic, and educational barriers that have prevented Black Americans from participating, and succeeding in the mainstream of American life. For more than 400 years, Black Americans have protested against oppression and have persistently sought equality in our society. Yet patterns of prejudice and systems of white supremacy have continued to push back, creating barriers for peace and justice every step of the way.

For the white folks protesting, remember: This is not about you. Show up. Carry signs and participate in chants that challenge white supremacy. Call in the white people you see causing harm. Be mindful that the action is being organized and led by Black-led organizations. Follow the leadership of the organizers as it relates to the march route and social distancing. Don’t start your own chants, don’t grab the mic. Be mindful of your body, as a white person, and the privilege your body carries. Also understand that some people will use these protests strategically as an opportunity to create mayhem and chaos, but we can’t let that deter us from showing up peacefully to express outrage at racist violence and demand accountability for law enforcement. Be very mindful that you are there in support of the organizers and not contributing to chaos or pulling focus by unnecessarily escalating. White allies, read more suggestions from Black Lives Matter here.

I represent a diverse group of Nebraskans as a State Senator. But there are moments when it is not my job to lead or make decisions, but to step back and follow the lead of my constituents. My role is to listen to Black Nebraskans to learn how they want to be helped and how the state legislature can work better for them to stop these systemic cycles of violence. A few of the key priorities that have been shared with me include fighting against voter suppression, ending the failed war on drugs, address housing discrimination, and reform our unfair labor laws. These policies and countless others have disparate impacts on Black communities. We also must keep our anger about prosecutorial decisions in mind when we go to the voting booth. Law enforcement officers have substantial protections under state and federal law when they kill or harass someone while they are acting within their scope of duties. We must give prosecutors the tools they need to hold violent law enforcement officers accountable, and state laws play a significant role in that. If we want our culture to improve, we need to recognize that much of that is shaped by laws, which are shaped by the people we elect statewide. We need to elect better people. Donate to black empowerment organizations and candidates, as I am committed to doing every election cycle. This includes progressive county attorneys and prosecutors. As I say, if you can’t change the people, change the people!

If you are outraged when someone is murdered, you can’t just say “What an outrage,” or “That’s so sad,” you must take action to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Because, you know what? It keeps happening. When an officer puts his knee on the neck of a Black man, puts his hand in his pocket, and cavalierly murders another human being; we know there is something larger at work. That kind of disregard for another person is systemic, it is learned, and it is normal. It’s been normal. But this shouldn’t be normal. Donate, vote, show up physically, and believe that things can be different if we change the balance of power within this broken system.

As always, please let me know if I can be of any more assistance. Email is the best way to get in touch with me, at mhunt@leg.ne.gov.

Many thanks,
Meg

Dear friends and neighbors,

From the May 21st press briefing:

Reporter: As we reopen, won’t we have more cases?
Governor Ricketts: As I’ve said, it’s a virus, we can’t stop it from coming.
Reporter: But how does that weigh on you, that we will have more deaths?
Ricketts: We have traffic deaths every year, but still allow people to drive.

It is so disappointing to listen to these briefings every day, as deaths and infections continue to climb, and not hear any sensitivity, empathy, or recognition for Nebraskans who are suffering and dying. There is no effective leadership without compassion. This is too bad.

And to speak to the traffic deaths comparison — we can’t compare causes of death that aren’t contagious to an extremely contagious novel virus that we are still trying to understand. It’s an insensitive and inaccurate comparison. Furthermore, Nebraska’s COVID-19 deaths from the past three months have already surpassed our average annual number of traffic fatalities. We should not give up on working to stop preventable deaths.

As I frequently remind us, “Don’t overwhelm the healthcare system” is not the right goal, especially with 90,000 Nebraskans in the Medicaid gap and over 141,000 completely uninsured. If they get sick, how will they pay? The goal has to be to decrease infections and death.

Many people also ask me a question like, “If you don’t want to reopen now, then when? When will you know?” My general position is that public health and pandemic researchers need to be moved into the lead on strategy, not politicians. We need to listen to them. That hasn’t happened at the state level or at the federal level.

And what *have* the health experts said? John Hopkins’s Guidance for Governors suggests reopening when new cases have declined for 2 weeks, we can test and contact-trace everyone, the hospitals aren’t overwhelmed, and there is adequate PPE for everyone. (Reopening Guidance for Governors)

Dr. Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, suggested states begin to reopen after two weeks of declining cases, as long as they develop containment plans should infection rates increase. We aren’t following that plan, either. (Opening America)

Another very respected public health policy expert, Andy Slavitt, has a recent piece with more guidance on opening safely. As he says, Americans don’t need to choose between a good economy and the public’s health. They go together.

Public health officials and pandemic experts I talk to in Nebraska say that reopening *could* work if we would *all* accept a social contract to follow strict practices of masks, social distancing, fever checks, telework. But would Nebraskans follow that strict directive? Have they had the chance? Even getting Ricketts to allow state employees to telework was like pulling teeth.

There’s no way to avoid making reopening an at least partly political decision. But my concern is that Nebraska has chosen to make it a *completely* political decision instead of balancing expert guidance with the need to grow economic activity. It’s not either/or, we can do both!

To back up my concern, here’s an example: Officials at UNMC–you know, the place in Nebraska with all the pandemic experts–have said they are not providing recommendations to the state; they’re “just providing data” for politicians to “interpret.” That’s not great!

Coordination at the government level is very chaotic, communication is disjointed, and the fact that most of us are not working in our offices together doesn’t help. We need a leader who can earn trust, unify us around a public health goal, and convey a clear strategy.

As always, please let me know if I can be of any more assistance. Email is the best way to get in touch with me, at mhunt@leg.ne.gov.

Many thanks,
Meg

Dear friends and neighbors,

In a previous newsletter, I shared all the ways Nebraska is helping support people who are experiencing food insecurity during this pandemic. While the state has taken many actions to help people experiencing hunger, including allowing SNAP recipients the ability to order groceries online, expanding allotments, and waiving work requirements, we have the authority and the capacity to do more.

When Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, it created the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. P-EBT allows states to provide EBT cards to kids on free and reduced-price lunch whose schools have closed. Several weeks ago we were optimistic that Nebraska was going to take advantage of this opportunity. Health and Human Services staff and the Department of Education said the plan was sitting with the higher-ups to decide how to move forward.

I am dismayed that, unfortunately, the state has now “suspended work” on P-EBT. This federal option, to ensure students do not go hungry, was a no-brainer.

Nebraskans are struggling and in desperate need of food assistance. More than 10,000 Nebraskans have filed for unemployment insurance since the beginning of the pandemic. The unemployment assistance provided through this program, as well as the federal funds provided by the CARES Act, assist Nebraskans with paying rent or utility bills. However, this financial assistance does not provide enough for people to secure all the necessities of life.

When people are in need and we can do more, we should do more.

Over 170,600 children in Nebraska rely on free and reduced lunch. With schools closed, children are missing out on those meals. Other states have taken advantage of the P-EBT option. So why isn’t it good enough for Nebraska’s hungry children?

During a declared emergency, Nebraska should take up all SNAP options made available by the federal government. To not do so puts our families and workforce at greater risk, and puts our state at an economic disadvantage. One frustrating lesson here: It may require legislation to fix this.

As always, please let me know if I can be of any more assistance. Email is the best way to get in touch with me, at mhunt@leg.ne.gov.

Many thanks,
Meg

Dear friends and neighbors,

In my last newsletter, which you can read here, I shared that I had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information about TestNebraska.com, the website that the Governor has been promoting for COVID-19 health assessments. I previously requested this information from both the Governor’s office and the Department of Administrative Services, but my requests were ignored. I received the contracts, which you can view here, and I expect the rest of my request for all correspondence about TestNebraska to be fulfilled in the next two weeks.

Here are my concerns today.

The service agreement with the software company behind TestNebraska says that they may sell deidentified, aggregated data. I don’t think that’s the biggest sin—the problem is that 1. Nebraskans aren’t told this up front before they opt in to take the assessment, and 2. The contract wasn’t even shown to the legislature until I FOIA’d it.

The tech and entrepreneurship community in Nebraska deserved to have $27 million invested in them for an effort like this. This could have been a massive stimulus for jobs and industry in our local entrepreneurial communities, and an opportunity for collaboration between university researchers, state public health departments, and the Silicon Prairie.

To fix this, Nebraska should add an explicit message to the first page of the assessment explaining that data you share may be deidentified, aggregated, and sold. I also believe Nebraska should get a share of any sales from the exploitation of this data, and that all of those sales and transactions should be public.

There will always be people who say, “I don’t care what the government knows about me, I have nothing to hide.” There are people who say, “Everyone acts like big corporations don’t have all of your personal data already.” There will also always be people who say, “I’m happy to participate in this so that people can be healthy and we can do research based on the data.” That’s fine–frankly, I’m one of those people. But it’s wrong when we don’t give people the opportunity to opt into that by making an educated choice. And it’s unconscionable when that choice is taken away from you by government.

At this link you can view the contracts for yourself. I also recommend that you read this excellent reporting by Lincoln Journal Star reporter Chris Dunker.

As always, please let me know if I can be of any more assistance. Email is the best way to get in touch with me, at mhunt@leg.ne.gov.

Many thanks,
Meg

Dear friends and neighbors,

Today I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information about TestNebraska.com, the website that the Governor has been promoting for COVID-19 health assessments. I previously requested this information from both the Governor’s office and the Department of Administrative Services, but my requests were ignored. I included a copy of the request below.

There are several reasons for my concerns around TestNebraska.com. I’m concerned about Nebraskans sharing sensitive personal information like email addresses and birthdates that aren’t subject to HIPAA (federal law which protects sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge). According to the privacy information on TestNebraska, data shared through this website may be shareable or sellable. The federal government is also doing a lot of relaxing of HIPAA for COVID positives, which heightens my concern. In addition, the Nebraska Health Information Initiative (NEHII), our statewide health information exchange, has not been involved in the creation of this website.

TestNebraska cost taxpayers $27 million, but the State has kept both the Legislature and Nebraskans totally in the dark about any contracts signed. The contract matters.

When taxpayer dollars are spent on a new initiative, taxpayers deserve to know how that money is being spent. Nebraskans should not be encouraged to share personal information without full understanding of how this data will be used. My FOIA request is intended to uncover what should have been public information in the first place.

Until we get some more information about TestNebraska and are able to look at the contract signed between the State of Nebraska and the private companies behind this website, I cannot encourage constituents to submit their information through TestNebraska.

As always, please let me know if I can be of any more assistance. Email is the best way to get in touch with me, at mhunt@leg.ne.gov.

Many thanks,
Meg

Dear friends and neighbors,

Expanding access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) and food assistance for Nebraska families has been a personal priority of mine since I joined the Legislature. I’m glad that through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, Congress has granted states additional flexibility within SNAP, and that Nebraska has taken advantage of these opportunities for families facing food insecurity.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has a website to track the options each state has taken up and which waivers have been applied for and approved. Nebraska’s options and waivers can be found here.

My colleague, Senator Sara Howard, compiled the following summary of what options Nebraska is pursuing:

Enhanced SNAP Allotments

The CARES Act provides enhanced SNAP allotments to SNAP recipients. Nebraska’s Department and Health and Human Services (DHHS) has received approval from FNS to provide enhanced allotments for families who were eligible for SNAP in March and April. The enhanced allotments would bring all SNAP households up to the maximum allotment for that family size. For example, if a family is receiving $300 a month, but the maximum allotment for that family size is $409 a month, that family will receive an additional $109 for the months of March and April.

The March enhanced allotment was issued to the EBT cards of SNAP families on April 11, 2020. The enhancement for April will be issued on the EBT cards of SNAP families on May 7, 2020.

It is important to note that all SNAP benefit dollars are federal dollars returning to the state.

Waiver of Work Requirements

The Coronavirus Response Act temporarily waives the work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) in order for them to receive SNAP for more than three months. DHHS has interpreted this waiver to mean that ABAWDs who cannot meet their work requirements will not lose their SNAP benefits unless such person is offered employment and refuses to accept it. If a person were to refuse to accept a job, then that person would be limited to 3 months of SNAP.

For other SNAP recipients, a loss of job due to COVID-19 will not result in a work requirements sanction. You can find DHHS’s Frequently Asked Questions on SNAP here.

Online Shopping

Nebraska is one of seven states to join an innovative pilot program to allow SNAP recipients to use their SNAP benefits and EBT cards to purchase food online. At the moment, Amazon and Walmart are the only two participating retailers but states can work with retailers locally to add them to the pilot.

Extended Recertification Periods

Nebraska also took up the option under the Coronavirus Response Act to extend certification periods for families who would have been scheduled to re-certify for SNAP during the months of March, April, and May. This means these families will not have to go through the recertification process at this time and their SNAP eligibility will automatically be extended for six months. This will allow DHHS to focus on processing applications for new families needing SNAP.

Extension of Reporting Requirements

This option provides DHHS with additional time to report to FNS with Quality Control case data. At this time, it is harder to receive timely verification from employers and to conduct their quality reviews. States are being given an additional 45 days to complete these Quality Control review

Nebraska is NOT pursuing the option to expand eligibility for children on reduced price lunch.

The Coronavirus Response Act also creates temporary SNAP eligibility for children who qualify for free and reduced lunch and whose schools have been closed. This is referred to as “Pandemic EBT.” In Nebraska, this option would mainly benefit children who receive reduced priced lunches as those families are generally over the SNAP income threshold in Nebraska.

In conversations with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department has said they do not believe they have the capacity to deal with the operational challenges of extending eligibility to these children. It is an option they may reconsider in the future.

Again, thank you so much to the office of Senator Sara Howard for compiling this resource. As always, please let me know if I can be of any more assistance. Email is the best way to get in touch with me, at mhunt@leg.ne.gov.

Many thanks,
Meg

Receiving Unemployment
April 20th, 2020

Dear friends and neighbors,

Over the past week, I have received hundreds of inquiries from Nebraskans all across the state about struggles with obtaining unemployment benefits. I know that many of you are experiencing trouble with the website, delays in benefits, and struggling to connect with help, and I can tell you that’s consistent with what I am hearing from other Nebraskans. I want to share some guidance that will hopefully help you navigate the process and give you some peace of mind.

  • The Nebraska Department of Labor asks individuals to contact them by phone (855-995-8863) or email (NDOL.UnemploymentHelp@nebraska.gov) about any question, because they need personally sensitive information in order to look into details about your claim. This unfortunately isn’t something my office can do on behalf of any individual. If you have already applied for unemployment, there will be a claim they can look into for you.
  • Under the CARES Act passed by Congress, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA) is applied to individuals who would not generally qualify for unemployment assistance, including independent contractors, hair stylists, aestheticians, etc. If your application is denied at the state level, it will still be reviewed to figure out if you are eligible for federal PUA. This process is likely to take longer because the application has to go through the process of being denied before qualifying for PUA. Under the PUA, applicants are eligible to receive:
    • Up to 39 weeks of benefits starting with weeks of unemployment beginning February 2, 2020 through December 26, 2020, depending on when you became directly impacted by the pandemic.
    • An additional $600 to each weekly benefit amount you may be eligible to receive, as part of the separate CARES Act Pandemic Additional Compensation program. Only the weeks of a claim between March 29 and July 25 are eligible for the extra $600 payment.
  • Reminder: You must file a claim every week in order to remain eligible for these federal benefits! You can do that easily through the online interface at http://neworks.nebraska.gov.
  • Finally, it’s important that you reach out to your State Senator (if it’s not me). They have the staff and capacity to process constituent requests and many keep records of each case, and will follow up to make sure your problem was resolved. Your Senator is your best advocate.

If it’s taking a while to hear back from the Department of Labor, keep trying. I understand from personal experience that this can be a very frustrating and overwhelming process. The Department staff is also overwhelmed, and they do understand that you and many others need this assistance immediately. When the pandemic began, the Department of Labor only had a few dozen adjudicators to process claims. Now the DoL is in the process of training over 200 new workers to help with the backlog. It’s not ideal, it’s going to take patience, but if you keep filing your claims and reach out to them with specific questions about your claim, you will be taken care of.

Over 83,000 Nebraskans have filed for unemployment in the past month. Every worker who has experienced a layoff or furlough is going through this same frustration, and I know the workers at the Department of Labor are doing the best to help every single person affected. As always, please let me know if I can be of any more assistance. Email is the best way to get in touch with me, at mhunt@leg.ne.gov.

Many thanks,
Meg

Voting by Mail
April 7th, 2020

Dear friends and neighbors,

Across many platforms, from Facebook to Twitter to my e-mail to conversations with my own family members, I have heard many questions and confusion about voting by mail in Nebraska. I gathered the most common questions I receive below to offer some clarity.

As more information becomes available, and if anything changes, I will be sure to share that.

Please plan to vote by mail this year! If you have any questions that are not addressed here, please contact my office at mhunt@leg.ne.gov. E-mail is the best way to get in touch.

Many thanks,
Meg

Q: How do I vote by mail?

The Secretary of State has sent vote by mail ballot applications to every Nebraska voter, and that is GREAT news. If you want to vote by mail, you must fill out the application and return it to your county election commission by fax, email or regular mail (with a 55 cent stamp) by May 1. You can also take a picture or scan your request and email it to your county election official. After your application is received, a ballot will be mailed to you prior to the election, which you will fill out at home, sign,  stamp, and mail back. If you’ve misplaced your application or didn’t receive one, you can access Vote by Mail Applications online:

Note: If you live in Douglas, Sarpy, Cass, or Lancaster counties, you likely received a vote by mail application from them, too, in addition to the vote by mail application sent out by the Secretary of State (and potentially, in addition to any vote by mail application you requested on your own). To get your ballot, you only have to send in one vote by mail application. As long as you’ve sent one in, you’re good.

Q: What if I don’t have a printer? 

If you can’t find someone to help you print off the vote by mail application, call the election official in your county and they will send you an application in the mail. You can find the list of statewide election officials by county here: https://sos.nebraska.gov/elections/election-officials-contact-information

Q: How do I return my ballot after I fill it out at home?

Your ballot will include a return envelope. Put the ballot in the envelope, seal it, sign it, and put a stamp on it. The envelope must be sealed and signed by the voter and, if assistance was provided, by the person providing assistance. The return envelope containing the ballot may be mailed back to the county election office. There will also be ballot drop boxes available in every county. If you don’t know where yours are, contact your county election official. One really exciting thing about this primary is that the Secretary of State and the Nebraska Association of County Officials (NACO) is purchasing and installing ballot drop boxes for every county. That way, voters can return completed ballots to the dropbox if they choose not to return their ballot by mail. Postage is not included for vote by mail ballots, so if you aren’t able to find a stamp, using a dropbox is a great idea.

Q: Who is allowed to vote by mail? 

In Nebraska, any voter may request a vote by mail ballot. Period.

Important Dates in Nebraska:

  • April 6: Vote by mail ballots start being mailed out
  • April 13: In-person early voting in county election offices begins (But in the interest of public health, I seriously advise you not to do that! Just got a vote by mail ballot please!)
  • May 1: Deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot be sent to you
  • May 11: Last day to vote in-person in a county election office (But again, try to stay out of there—just vote at home and get that vote by mail ballot)
  • May 12: Election Day! You need to make sure your ballot is received by your county election office by 8pm CST, 7pm MST.

Q: Is “vote by mail” the same thing as “early voting”?

Yes. “Vote by mail,” “vote at home,”  “early voting,” and  “absentee ballot” all refer to the same thing in Nebraska.

Q: Isn’t this a lot of stuff to be mailing out? What if I don’t have stamps?

To be clear, these are the two things you have to send to your county election official:

  • Your application to vote by mail
  • Your completed ballot
Note that both the application and the returned ballot require a stamp, because postage is not included. However, there are ways to return both your application and your ballot without a stamp. You can take a picture or scan your application and email it to your county election officialAnd once you receive your ballot, you can drop your completed ballot in its envelope at a dropbox location without a stamp. 

Q: Will I still be able to vote in person?

Look, right now, the plan is to allow in-person voting in Nebraska. The Secretary of State and his experienced elections team have thought this through and put many precautions in place to protect pollworkers and voters who choose to vote in person.

I have never voted by mail myself—I always vote in person because I love getting the sticker, I love taking the ballot selfie, and I love the excitement of being at the polls on Election Day. But this year, I’ll be casting my vote from home. Many of our loyal, hardworking pollworkers in Nebraska are in vulnerable populations, at a critical risk for contracting the virus. Even if you are not symptomatic, you could be carrying the virus and could unknowingly spread it if you leave home to go to a polling place. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the responsible thing for every Nebraskan to do is to vote by mail from home. And I’ll add one other thing: We’re very fortunate to have the privilege to vote this way in Nebraska! Many states have barriers to voting by mail, which drives down turnout. In Nebraska, we have to make sure that doesn’t happen, and that everyone who is eligible to vote gets the chance to do so this election. Research shows that the best way to do that is to vote by mail.

Q: How do I know that my ballot was counted?

The Secretary of State’s office has an online Voter Information Center to track the status of your ballot including when your ballot was sent, returned, and its status. Remember, the sooner you send your ballot back, the more peace of mind there is for you. And remember, the sooner you send your ballot back, the more peace of mind there is for you.

Dear friends and neighbors,

For years, ever since grocery stores started offering online ordering, I have been advocating for online ordering to be made available for people who pay for groceries with SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) or WIC (special food assistance for women, infants, and children). With the spread of COVID-19, we see how much more important this is today.

People experiencing food insecurity, who rely on SNAP, have to crowd in grocery stores because they can’t use their benefits to get groceries delivered like others do. What I know from speaking to these Nebraskans is that many people who rely on these benefits are essential workers, working at grocery stores or restaurants or in delivery themselves, so they are not able to shop strategically at less congested times.

If everyone had access to food delivery, everyone would be safer, including grocery workers. Reducing congestion in grocery stores is vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

I am very excited that The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has started an online ordering for SNAP pilot program as of April 1, with Amazon and Walmart participating. Walmart has started with two stores in Norfolk and South Sioux City, and will soon expand statewide. Amazon is delivering statewide now.

For Nebraskans to use their SNAP EBT card on Amazon, visit Amazon.com/SNAP-EBT and follow the instructions on the screen. If you are not already an Amazon customer, you will need to create an account and add your SNAP EBT card plus zip code to make sure that you are eligible. It’s a very quick and easy process.

I am not sure about the timeline right now, but DHHS says they will expand online ordering to other Nebraska grocery stores, such as Hy-Vee, “as resources allow.” I will keep you updated when I know more about that.

In 2016, the federal government launched the first pilot program to allow food insecure people to use SNAP to buy groceries online. The program has been running in Alabama, Iowa, New York, Washington, Oregon, and finally we have started this pilot program in Nebraska which I hope will bring relief to many of our neighbors.

The USDA should expand online ordering for SNAP nationwide to stop crowding and support low income people who need food delivery now. I encourage you to contact your Congressional representatives and urge federal action to allow all Americans who rely on SNAP to order groceries online. It is one low-cost, easy way we can use technology to help people now.

You can always contact us at mhunt@leg.ne.gov if you have any questions or concerns. E-mail is the best way to get in touch.

Many thanks,
Meg

Dear friends and neighbors,

My colleague Senator Wendy DeBoer has been in contact with the Food Bank for the Heartland to determine what their needs are during this pandemic crisis. The President for Food Bank of the Heartland lives in her neighborhood and expressed concerns about how the distribution lines might be interrupted for the food banks (in more rural areas especially) as this virus moves across our state.

He also mentioned that money is more helpful than food donations at this time for two reasons. First, the Food Bank can buy at cheaper prices than consumers, and second, because it cuts down on transportation and distribution logistics. Based on the challenges he expressed, Senator DeBoer and many others, me included, are concerned that we may get to a place where folks in Nebraska do not have enough to eat.

Below, I am sharing information put together between the Food Bank of the Heartland and Senator DeBoer’s staff. The short version is: The Food Bank needs monetary donations. You can click on the button below to give directly today.

You can always contact us at mhunt@leg.ne.gov if you have any questions or concerns. E-mail is the best way to get in touch.

Many thanks,
Meg

Donate to the Food Bank for the Heartland

What is Food Bank for the Heartland?

Food Bank for the Heartland is on the front line of addressing food insecurity issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Food Bank distributes food to 77 Nebraska counties and 16 neighboring Iowa counties through partnerships with a network of food pantries, meal providers, emergency shelters, and schools. The Food Bank of the Heartland – Lincoln serves 16 counties in southeast Nebraska. The Food Bank works with over 600 partners to distribute food and will be hosting mobile drive up food pantries at local food banks throughout the state during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Food Bank for the Heartland distributed 23 million meals in 2019. For every one meal that the food bank provides, SNAP provides 12 meals. As a result, the food bank works in partnership with programs like SNAP to adequately serve those facing food insecurity.

Normally, the Food Bank receives 70% its food supply through donations from retailers, manufacturers, and wholesalers, and purchases the other 30%.

How does COVID-19 present challenges to the Food Bank?

The COVID-19 outbreak presents new challenges for Food Bank for the Heartland. First, the Food Bank anticipates an increased need for food throughout the state. As schools close, many students who received free and reduced lunches at school may now turn to organizations like the Food Bank. Statewide, 45% of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. Many individuals are also facing unemployment as a result of COVID-19 or are hourly employees who have experienced a significant loss of income due to closures. These individuals may also turn to the Food Bank for food throughout the outbreak.

In addition to increased demand, COVID-19 has also resulted in decreased supplies for the food bank. While 70% of the food is usually donated with the remaining 30% purchased by the food bank, these numbers have flipped in recent weeks. Shoppers stocking up on food from retailers has put increased demands on the supply chain. This has resulted in less overstock and therefore fewer donations to the Food Bank. The increased demand for food has also led to delays in getting food purchased by the food bank to its facility. The Food Bank has already made a $200,000 emergency purchase of food and anticipates that similar purchases may be needed in the coming weeks.

Finally, COVID-19 may create distribution challenges. While the Food Bank is only holding drive up pantries, some local staging areas have closed their doors. Many food pantries across Nebraska are run by seniors who are not safely able to volunteer during the outbreak. As more of these pantries close, the food bank will lose vital distribution points across the state. The food bank has also reduced its volunteer numbers in half to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The most effective way to assist Food Bank for the Heartland and provide food security for those in need during the outbreak is through monetary donations. While food donations through community drives are appreciated, they can only provide a fraction of the food needed. Food Bank for the Heartland can purchase food at a lower per unit cost by purchasing in bulk or at cost.

Sen. Megan Hunt

District 8
Room 1523
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2722
Email: mhunt@leg.ne.gov
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