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As you may have heard, the Nebraska Legislature has recessed for the foreseeable future, due to the global Coronavirus outbreak. With a majority of members in the body being in the high risk category, Speaker Scheer and Executive Board Chairman Hilgers believe it to be in the best interest to distance ourselves to prevent possible spread.
After we recessed, it was determined we needed to resume the session momentarily to pass an emergency appropriations bill in response to the pandemic. On Monday, a vast majority of members came together to adopt a proposed amendment that would appropriate close to $84 million dollars of state funds to assist with response efforts. This legislation unanimously passed the final round of debate on Wednesday and was immediately signed into law by the Governor.
As of today, we have appropriated $38,156,700 dollars to local response efforts which provides additional funding to local jurisdictions to allow them to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies, and to support the local health departments for staffing, PPE, call centers, IT needs, and other expenditures.
$4,004,000 has been appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health to cover costs for overtime and additional staff. The areas this touches are providing for sustained staffing for epidemiologists, support services, and interpreters to meet the higher demand. An additional $13,000,000 million dollars is being appropriated to cover additional staffing needs at our Veterans Hospitals and other DHHS care facilities.
We have decided to appropriate $3,458,900 dollars to the University of Nebraska Medical Center to provide for additional lab testing, laboratory personnel, and equipment to provide testing for the state. Included in this appropriation is $100,000 to purchase UV lights that will be used to disinfect personal protective equipment that was once considered “single-use”, thus allowing for less demand on the supply chain. The university will also be creating a Knowledge Center system which will be used by coalitions and stakeholders across the state to create a platform for communications, bed tracking, and resource sharing that will be used across the state.
Finally, we have created an additional reserve of $25,000,000 million dollars of unobligated funds if any additional funding is needed. If not utilized, this money will return to the rainy day fund.
Given this is an ever changing pandemic, we don’t know when the Legislature will reconvene to conduct normal business. You can help us achieve this by slowing, and ultimately, ending the spread by practicing precautionary measures such as washing your hands, practicing social distancing, and staying home when you are sick. While there are no known cases in Legislative District 24, we all must remain vigilant because it only takes one person to spread a case in a community.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is email@example.com, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.