NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Myron Dorn

Sen. Myron Dorn

District 30

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 mdorn@leg.ne.gov

May 15 Update
May 15th, 2020

Memorial Day in 2020 will certainly look different than in past years. Nevertheless, the meaning and the spirit of this important holiday remains. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our veterans, in all branches of the military, for their service and dedication to our great nation. In this time of uncertainty and challenge, I believe it makes several things very clear.

We learn what we value the most.  We are so grateful for our freedom, to live in a democratic republic. As Nebraskans, we are extremely fortunate to have a strong agricultural base and work ethic as our foundation. On the whole, we have a healthy environment and plenty of wide open spaces. Top notch medical and research facilities make our state a key player in national issues. We have tight knit communities with our families and friends. These things make us resilient and resolute in the face of our current adversity.

As we reflect on perhaps what we might be missing right now, it reminds us of the courage and sacrifices made by the men and women in our armed forces. On Memorial Day, we remember those who paid the ultimate price, to protect the values we enjoy. 

A Virtual Memorial Day observance is being coordinated by the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs.  The virtual event will be set up in the State Capitol Rotunda with NET broadcasting it statewide. If conditions prevent attending a local event, please take advantage of this way to commemorate the holiday together as a state.

I believe there are encouraging signs and some positive news as we begin to find ways to open up the economy. We need to do it correctly, and follow the necessary guidelines. District 30 relies on both Public Health Solutions, based in Crete; and the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department.  These two agencies have kept up an unbelievable schedule these past couple of months, and their work is not finished. We can all help by heeding their advice and caring for those around us.

We are still a few weeks away from reconvening the Legislature, but we have several working groups tackling the issues that lay ahead. Contact my office at any time via email, or leave a message on voice mail. mdorn@gmail.com  402-471-2620.  Be safe and careful, and enjoy the freedoms we have in this great state!

 

May 1st Update
May 2nd, 2020

Planting season is in full swing thanks to favorable weather in District 30. Agriculture is one of the primary economic drivers in this part of the state, so remember to keep an eye out for large equipment moving more slowly than regular traffic on our roadways. 

I want to commend everyone in our area for an excellent response to two items – the 2020 Census, and mail-in ballots for the primary election. Both of these are important civic duties that affect our future. Thank you for your efforts to participate during these unusual times. 

We continue to have a number of virus related issues to keep an eye on at this time.  While we would certainly prefer these were unnecessary, some actions taken by federal, state and local governments can be helpful, if you know where to look. Again this week I would like to highlight a few programs that might provide needed information, aid or relief.

The Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) announced that the agency is issuing payments for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).  PUA is a federal CARES Act program for people who are unable to work as a result of COVID-19 and not eligible for regular state unemployment benefits, such as self-employed workers and independent contractors. 

For people who have been laid off or had their hours reduced due to COVID-19, the online benefits system will determine eligibility for state unemployment or PUA through a single application. Workers who have not already applied can do so by filing an unemployment claim at https://neworks.nebraska.gov/

UNL Swine Animal Science Extension team has developed an information page on their website. This is focused on “Emergency Depopulation of Livestock Facilities” during COVID-19.Here is the link: https://animalscience.unl.edu/swine

Right now is a difficult time for families that need to find child care, both for kids out of school and for those whose child care has closed or reduced numbers. This is especially important for essential workers that have child care needs. At the same time there are lots of child care providers with open slots because many parents are keeping their kids home. Here’s a resource for more information:  https://nechildcarereferral.org 

The state Department of Health and Human Services announced the granting of some waivers through  Medicaid and Long-Term Care, and the Division of Developmental Disabilities. Frequently Asked Questions FAQ and a fact sheet are available for additional information. COVID-19 Appendix K Fact Sheet

Hand sanitizer remains an important tool. Renewable Fuels Nebraska is working in collaboration with the Nebraska Ethanol Board, Nebraska Innovation Campus’ Food Processing Center, the State of Nebraska, and many ethanol industry partners to produce more than 40,000 gallons of hand sanitizer and distributing it at no cost to essential businesses and organizations across the state.

 If you are hearing from organizations who need hand sanitizer, have them fill out a request here: https://handsanitizer.unl.edu/request. This project will continue as long as resources allow.  Alternatively, if you know of others who might consider supporting this project, financial contributions can be made here: https://fundraise.nufoundation.org/NEHandSanitizer.

 The Department of Justice is remaining vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis. Find out how you can protect yourself and helpful resources on DOJ’s Coronavirus Fraud Prevention website. The Federal Trade Commission has also established a website with helpful information to help consumers avoid coronavirus-related scams.

In addition to these federal agencies,  USA.gov is cataloging all U.S. government activities related to coronavirus. From actions on health and safety to travel, immigration and transportation to education, unemployment, taxes and elections – the list goes on. A good place to start for finding any federal government agency:  www.usa.gov

My staff and I continue to welcome your communication about any concerns you might have. Please send an email or leave a voicemail message at any time, day or night.  mdorn@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2620.  Stay safe!

 

April 24 Update
April 25th, 2020

As the days go by and we are still observing the Directed Health Measures in District 30, it is easy to let your guard down and get complacent. The announcement of the loosening of some restrictions in the near future is welcome news.  However, I encourage you to keep doing the right things to stay healthy and safe. Our area  has been fortunate thus far to be low on the list of reported COVID-19 cases and we should all continue to work hard to keep it that way.

This week my staff and I were able to take part in several online meetings and webinars, allowing us to stay current with a number of reports and the work of state divisions and organizations.  The Appropriations Committee also continues to receive updates on the economic impact of the virus.  At this point, we are hearing that Nebraska state and local sales tax receipts are estimated to have declined by $13.6 million through April 4. State personal and corporate income tax receipts are estimated to have declined $11.7 million over the same period.

Under the current Directed Health Measure, 3.46% of Nebraska workers eligible for unemployment are estimated to receive benefits. The average increase in unemployment among shelter-in-place states is 4.49%, while the average of states that do not have a statewide shelter-in-place order, including Nebraska, is 2.47%. 

The report estimates 96,147 job losses in Nebraska through early April, resulting in a loss of more than a quarter of a billion dollars in wages, salaries, and self-employment income. These figures do not account for federal money that has come into the state through COVID-19 relief programs. As I have stated, we will know more when the April tax receipt report comes out in mid May.

On Friday, new federal provisions under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act  were signed into law in Washington DC.  This is a $484 billion relief package, with the vast majority of funds allocated to the Small Business Administration for Paycheck Protection Program funding. However, approximately $100 billion has been allocated for health care related provisions: an additional $75 billion to hospitals and health care providers; and $25 billion for coronavirus testing, with $11 billion of that specifically for state, local, and tribal governments to expand testing capacity.  Also, $600 million of that of the $25 billion is allocated both for grants under the Health Centers program, and for grants to federally qualified health centers.  $225 million of the $25 billion is allocated to rural health clinics for COVID-19 testing and related expenses. Hopefully this additional infusion of dollars will help support the Nebraska economy and health care system.

Many people have mentioned that without their usual schedule, it is hard to keep track of what day it is. This week we had a date in Nebraska that may have passed by, like a number of important events, without the typical fanfare – Arbor Day. This holiday originated right here in our state in 1872 as a result of the efforts of J. Sterling Morton to promote the planting of trees on our otherwise treeless prairie. 

Another date to remember: May 1 is the last day to send in your mail-in ballot request form. To date, County Clerks/Election Commissioners have received 271,449 ballot requests. In 2016, a Presidential Election year, statewide votes totaled 313,000. We are on track to have a successful election turn out even with the virus, but don’t miss your chance to participate in this important civic duty.

Poll workers are still needed for the primary on May 12., even while we hope actual physical turn out will be very low. Contact your County Clerk/Election Commissioner to become a poll worker https://bit.ly/3eoOl9j

In coordination with the FDA, the Red Cross, along with blood industry partners, is seeking people who are fully recovered from the new coronavirus to sign up to donate plasma to help current COVID-19 patients. People who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus. This convalescent plasma is being evaluated as treatment for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections, or those judged by a healthcare provider to be at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease. To learn more, visit RedCrossBlood.org/plasma4covid.

From the Department of Health and Human Services:  This week DHHS received approval from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid for Nebraska’s emergency waiver application covering developmental disability services, through Appendix K of the Medicaid Section. 

Appendix K allows the state to be responsive to the needs to DD waiver recipients and providers impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19, recommended closures, and quarantines due to potential exposure, or for those following the CDC guidelines for those with disabilities. Contact DHHS for additional information.  http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Developmental-Disabilities.aspx

From the Nebraska Ethanol Board:  since April 5, more than 21,000 gallons of hand sanitizer has been produced at a temporary production facility at Nebraska Innovation Campus. The product has made its way into hospitals, nursing homes, blood banks, daycares, fire stations, and many other healthcare facilities. The need for hand sanitizer continues, but our supply of materials is dwindling. Many organizations have stepped up to donate supplies at a time when they too are hurting, in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19. They too have limits. If you are able to support these efforts, please consider giving at the link below. If you aren’t able to give, please share this link with friends, businesses, or others who can help. We will continue to produce sanitizer as long as supplies allow. Thank you for your support! https://fundraise.nufoundation.org/NEHandSanitizer

From the Nebraska Department of Labor:  any worker in a non-paid status due to COVID-19 may file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. Unemployment claims in Nebraska are filed online at NEworks.nebraska.gov. The NEworks mobile app is available to download for free. After filing a new initial claim, applicants must certify their eligibility every week that they continue to be unemployed by logging into their NEworks account.  These weekly certifications must be completed even while the new claim is still being processed.  Claim and payment status can also be viewed by logging into the NEworks account.

From the Governor’s office:  Gov. Ricketts introduced Test Nebraska, a new program that will assess, test and track COVID-19 cases in Nebraska. Nebraskans can visit testnebraska.com to complete an online assessment. The program is designed to increase the number of tests done in Nebraska. Ricketts said the program will help the state significantly ramp up testing. Testing is important so spread of the virus in the state will slow. Rather than asking everyone to stay home, the increased testing will allow only those who test positive to stay home while those who test negative can return to work.

The testing will be free for Nebraskans and will give the state real-time information about COVID-19.As part of the plan, Nebraskans are asked to take the #TestNebraskaChallenge and nominate five friends to take the test.

From local business:  Inspired by the heroes we continue to serve, starting Wednesday, April 22, through Tuesday, May 5, all first responders and healthcare workers are eligible for a free “Thank You Meal” via drive-thru and carry-out at participating McDonald’s locations by simply showing a work badge. Each meal will be served in the iconic Happy Meal Box with breakfast and daytime options available. Please click here and here for social media posts promoting this offer. Please also consider sharing these to your networks to help spread word to first responders and healthcare workers.

From the USDA:Get recent news about COVID-19 and impacts on USDA Service Centers across the country as well as updates on programs developed to help agriculture. https://www.farmers.gov/

Thank you for continuing to reach out with your questions and concerns. You can contact me at any time through phone or email and we will respond as quickly as we are able. mdorn@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2620

 

April 17 Update
April 17th, 2020

We have passed the mid point of April, and have received a report from the Department of Revenue about tax receipts in Nebraska for March. March 2020 General Fund receipts were $41.3 million higher than the certified forecast. While the amounts were above original projections, there are some important points to keep in mind when looking at those figures.  

March receipts do not yet show the economic slow down due to the virus, and the significant increase above projection continued the trend we had seen for the previous eight months (July through February). The April report will no doubt be much different due to the time lag in reporting which I discussed in last week’s update.

Another consideration is that the current “certified forecast” for April was based on the traditional April 15 income tax filing deadline.  Extending the filing date to July 15 could shift $385 million from FY2019-20 (April, May, and June) into FY2020-21 (mostly July and August).

The combination of the virus and the new tax deadline could cause April receipts to be much lower than the certified forecast when that report comes out in May.  It will be a challenge to determine how much is due to the change in the income tax filing deadline and how much is due to the COVID-19 outbreak and economic conditions.

At this point, all we have are some estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that 70% of the jobs lost due to the pandemic are in lower wage industries such as hospitality and retail. Their models show an impact of about $63 million in lost economic activity in Nebraska for March. Nebraska state and local sales tax receipts are estimated to have declined by $924,469 in the month of March. State personal and corporate income tax receipts are estimated to have declined $794,501 over the same period.  Again, we won’t be able to verify these estimates until mid May.

Turning to the COVID-19 situation directly, we are seeing a wide variety of needs in our district’s population. Thankfully, there are many different resources available where we can find assistance.

A one-stop-shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is the:. The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide (PDF, 349 KB). This is a first-of-its-kind resource for rural leaders looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address this pandemic.USDA has taken many immediate actions to assist farmers, ranchers, producers, rural communities, and rural-based businesses and organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on these actions, visit www.usda.gov/coronavirus.

Another resource for rural areas has been developed by UNL Extension.  Extension educators from across Nebraska have compiled a variety of resources for rural Nebraskans including information on managing COVID-19-related stress; University of Nebraska Medical Center COVID-19 resources and guidelines; online mental health screenings; and videos, podcasts and other resources to aid Nebraskans in helping their children complete their schoolwork and learning at home. Access this site at:  https://ruralwellness.unl.edu/

Additionally, the site includes the numbers for two important hotlines: the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline, 1-800-464-0258. The Rural Response Hotline can connect farmers and ranchers and their families with attorneys, financial counselors, mediators and other farmers, offering no-cost vouchers for counseling to eligible rural Nebraskans, among other services.

The University of Nebraska is also offering resources to all kinds of businesses through an online platform—SourceLink. This connects Nebraskans with University services that support entrepreneurship, business, and economic development. You can explore SourceLink at: nebraska.edu/sourcelink.

In Lincoln, a new app, myLNK, is free and available on Android and Apple app stores with over 12,000 downloads to date. The website, https://mylnk.app/home, provides the same information and translates into Arabic, Spanish, and Vietnamese. People using the app can search for services, “diapers,” organizations, “Legal Aid,” or view by category for a Food and Health Calendar with daily information. myLNK is a community effort including the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, Center for People in Need, and is developed by Don’t Panic Labs. myLNK and the United Way collaborate with 211 serving as the voice call solution for resources and myLNK as the tech-focused solution.

Foodnet is a group of volunteers from many different churches and other non-profit organizations trying to stop the waste of food and provide for those in need.  Foodnet collects food from donors for distribution at sites around the Lincoln area each day. Foodnet provides mostly perishable foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products and bread. Foodnet distributions sites are continuing to serve those in need in Lincoln, Crete, Denton, Milford, and Seward during the COVID-19 outbreak. Each site is taking precautions to handle food in the safest way possible. 

People in need of food can check out the Food Bank of Lincoln distribution schedule at: https://www.lincolnfoodbank.org/get-food/food-distribution-schedule/

 To donate, Nebraskans can visit: https://www.lincolnfoodbank.org/donate/

Last week, Governor Ricketts extended waivers to August 1 for COVID-19 unemployment insurance claims.  These include the waiver of the requirement to search for work, the waiver of the requirement to serve a waiting week between claim processing and the first payment, and the waiver of employer benefit charges.

Any worker in a non-paid status due to COVID-19 may file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. Unemployment claims in Nebraska are filed online at NEworks.nebraska.gov. The NEworks mobile app is available to download for free. After filing a new initial claim, applicants must certify their eligibility every week that they continue to be unemployed by logging into their NEworks account.  These weekly certifications must be completed even while a new claim is still being processed. 

Remember to be alert to scams, send in your mail-in ballot before May 12, and follow the recommendations to stay safe and healthy!  Contact me any time at mdorn@ leg.ne.gov or call 402-471-2620.

 

April 10 update
April 11th, 2020

As we continue to work together through the unprecedented circumstances of the virus in our area, I want to provide some information on various issues and programs that might be helpful. Health recommendations and tips can be found easily, so I am going to focus on current events and resources for support.

We had a conference call this past week to get an update from the chairman of the Appropriations Committee on which I serve. We do not yet know what the total financial impact on the state and the many sectors of our economy will be from the virus; or how much federal aid flowing into Nebraska will help reduce these impacts. Nor do we have any idea when the Legislature will be able to reconvene. 

In this current session, the appropriations committee introduced adjustments to our 2019 biennium (two year) budget, which had passed first round debate before our recess. During our three day session in late March the legislature passed $83.6 million to be used for the states coronavirus funding needs. 

The budget came to the floor with $731 million in the so called rainy day fund, based on the forecasting board’s revenue projections. They had their most recent meeting on February 28th. At the start of this fiscal year there was $455 million in the rainy day fund. With the forecasted revenue increases, above projections for this fiscal year, the fund grew to that $731 million figure. We also had $130 million in funding to be used on the floor for appropriation bills, such as property tax relief. The $83.6 million in Covid-19 funding will come out of the rainy day fund, bringing that total down to $647.4 million. 

What happens as we go forward?  The state gets revenue data out for the previous month on about the 15th of the following month. February data was released on March 15th; March data will be known about April 15th, and so on. The further we go along the more information we will have on the decrease in revenue due to the Covid-19 slowdown. Most likely much of the increase in the rainy day fund will be gone, because of having less revenue than what was projected. If the legislature doesn’t meet until June or July we will have two or three months of data on which to base our budget adjustments.

Budget items such as property tax relief, 2019 flooding issues, and appropriation bills on the floor will all be affected by our revenue stream. The greater the loss of revenue the more effect it will have. Also delaying Income tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15 will have an effect on timing of the revenue The flow of income taxes into revenue will mean less revenue in April and more in July, which puts it in to the next fiscal year. It will need to be accounted for in another fiscal year and will have an impact on decisions for this fiscal year. It is safe to say the work of the Appropriations Committee, and the entire Legislature, has increased exponentially.

Every spring our district experiences reduced air quality from the smoke coming from Kansas. I contacted the Governor’s office about this, in light of the respiratory virus heightening our concerns.  The following information was provided:  

“Thank you for sharing your concerns over prescribed burns in the Flint Hills in Kansas.  In 2016, the State of Nebraska worked with both the federal Environmental Protection Agency and State of Kansas to revisit concerns over this issue and Kansas developed a Smoke Management Plan.  Since then, the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services regularly work with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment regarding the impact prescribed fires and wildfires have on air quality.  In 2018, DHHS implemented a public smoke advisory system for the Flint Hills burns and activated the system again this year when the 2020 prescribed burn season began on March 5. Smoke advisories are issued to the public when conditions make it likely that the smoke from the burns could affect air quality in parts of Nebraska.  Advisories use data provided by the state of Kansas, smoke plume modeling, and information from air quality monitors located in Bellevue, Lincoln and Omaha.  

On March 26th, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Agriculture sent a letter strongly encouraging all land owners and managers to voluntarily reduce the number of acres that they intend to burn this spring due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Prescribed burns in Kansas are a part of their rangeland management strategies and, when done according to its smoke management plan, do not violate federal air quality requirements. Nebraska is working to minimize impacts and provide relevant and timely information so individuals can take steps to protect their health when Nebraska’s air quality is affected.”

A number of government divisions and organizations are providing assistance related to their areas of expertise. Here a few that have come to my attention: 

Reminder to request a ballot for the primary

If you have not contacted the county election commissioner or received a form in the mail, applications also may be completed at https://sos.nebraska.gov/elections/early-voting.  You must request a mail-in ballot by May 1, 2020.402-471-2620

For caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s

The Alzheimer’s Association.has online resources, virtual community programs, telephone support groups, caregiver tips and a 24/7 Helpline are all available.

Helpline: 800.272.3900  https://www.alz.org/nebraska

For people who have Diabetes and at higher risk for COVID-1

The American Diabetes Association is providing support and guidance to constituents impacted by diabetes, who are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. You can access helpful resources, understand your risk, know your legal rights, and connect with community at https://www.diabetes.org/coronavirus-covid-19. Make sure you know how to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 and what to do if you or a loved one develops symptoms. In addition, many people are now facing unexpected financial hardships. If you are struggling to pay for insulin, the ADA has resources to help – visit InsulinHelp.org. Questions? The American Diabetes Association is here to help during this challenging time: click here or call their Center for Information at 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2383).

SNAP Benefits

Federal emergency allotments will be used to increase the amount of funds SNAP recipients receive for the months of March and April 2020. No action is needed from SNAP recipients to receive the supplemental support. SNAP recipients will be issued increased benefits on their current EBT cards. Supplemental benefits for March will be issued April 11 and supplemental benefits for April will be issued May 7.

Help for Small Businesses

The dominant programs to help our small businesses will derive from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the CARES Act. Please know, there are additional programs that can help, such as the CDBG program listed above, to micro-lenders such as the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) and Nebraska Enterprise Fund. I would ask that you direct your constituents to our website at www.opportunity.nebraska.gov and click on the COVID resources link. They may also call 402-471-3111 and our receptionist will direct them to one of our business specialists for personal assistance. Links and more information can be found at the US Treasury website: https://home.treasury.gov/

https://www.nebraska-dining.org/  The Nebraska Restaurant Association is partnering with a national ad agency to assist local businesses in promoting their menus and take out/delivery options. Find more information on their website.

For Rural Development programs

Go to https://www.rd.usda.gov/coronavirus to learn more about the opportunities USDA Rural Development is implementing to provide immediate relief to our customers, partners, and stakeholders.

For Health Providers

The Department of Insurance along with the major insurance companies, has compiled information about coverage for telehealth. Find more information at: https://www.doi.nebraska.gov/

Contact my office at any time with your concerns and we will get back to you as soon as we can.  mdorn@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2620.  Follow the guidelines and stay well!

 

April 3 Update
April 3rd, 2020

We have experienced the effects of the corona virus very close to home here in District 30 this week. Yet, the resources and responses continue to expand, which is good news for us all as individuals, and for our economy and communities. I will touch on a few of those below. But first I would like to call to your attention some important items which can be handled from home.

Wednesday was Census Day. Households across Nebraska have already received or will soon receive a letter in the mail with information about how to be counted. The Census is vitally important to our state. Federal grants make up one-third of state budgets and 95% of these rely on census-derived data to distribute funding. 

The survey is short, about eight questions per member of your household.  Responses are required by law. Persons should be counted where they live most of the year and/or on April 1, 2020, Census Day.  Representatives of the U.S. Census Bureau are able to help over the phone and offer language assistance.

If someone does not complete their form, a U.S. Census Bureau representative will have to visit the household to make sure everyone is counted.  This costs the government more money, so I encourage you to respond as soon as possible.  

By law, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies. That’s protected under Title 13 of the U.S. Code. So you can be confident in doing your part to ensure Nebraska gets all the federal funding we should. Thankfully, for the first time ever, households can complete the census online, by phone, or by mail. Go to my2020census.gov to be counted, or 2020census.gov for more information from the United States Census Bureau. 

Another important thing you can do by mail is vote! The primary election will take place in May, but any and everyone can request a mail-in ballot. This will help every voter and every person who volunteers at the polls to stay safe during the virus pandemic. Please, contact your county election commissioner if you have not yet received an application for a mail-in ballot. https://gagecountynebraska.us/  or https://www.lancaster.ne.gov/314/Election-Commissioner

Turning to information specifically about COVID-19, the state maintains a dashboard with updated information and statistics. It can be found here:  https://nebraska.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/4213f719a45647bc873ffb58783ffef3

The distribution of economic impact payments from the congressional stimulus package will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. However, some seniors and others who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the stimulus payment. For more information, go to the Internal Revenue website, https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus.

In line with federal recommendations, Nebraska has issued an executive order changing requirements for unemployment insurance (UI) claims filed between March 22 and May 2, with an understanding that the timeframe could be extended if needed. 

For individuals who are not eligible for unemployment insurance, we now have Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, PUA.  An example of those who can take advantage of PUA include, for example, independent contractors, sole practitioners, or those unable to work due to COVID-19. This program is 100% federally funded.

The loss of employment must be due to COVID-19, but the parameters include a number of reasons for being unable to work. Contact the Department of Labor for complete information. Please keep in mind that you must 

must apply for unemployment insurance through the Nebraska Department of Labor to obtain PUA, but your application will be denied, because you are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits. However you will then automatically be pulled into the PUA system. This is how the system works so just be aware that denial of UI benefits is not the same as PUA. Go to:  https://neworks.nebraska.gov/

The state emergency management system (NEMA) has been activated much like it was a year ago, to take care of the massive flooding across eastern Nebraska. In this instance with the corona virus, they are working closely with public health entities to monitor the supply chain and staffing of essential needs and industries. We are also fortunate to have UNMC and Nebraska Medicine located in our state, as they are on the front lines of the pandemic on a global scale. 

As you are aware, things have been changing rapidly, so be sure you are checking ahead on restrictions and recommendations.  If you have any specific questions or concerns please contact me directly at mdorn@leg.ne.gov or call my office and leave a message at 402-471-2620.  My staff and I are working through your communications as they come in and we will respond as quickly as we can. Please follow the guidelines for staying safe and well, and we will get through this together.

 

March 26 Update
March 26th, 2020

This week the Legislature moved very quickly to pass an emergency funding measure of around $86 million. This will allow the state to respond to the unprecedented demands of the COVID-19 virus on a number of levels. The two main targets of funding are health and the economy. 

I encourage everyone to keep taking all the recommended precautions! If you have any medical questions, please go to the Department of Health website:  dhhs.ne.gov. The Nebraska COVID-19 Information Line is (402) 552-6645. It is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST – every day. State agencies are sharing information using the #NECOVID19 Hashtag. DHHS has produced COVID-19 Public Service Announcements which are available in English and En Español.

While many normal activities have been disrupted, we still need to look ahead.  The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot or early ballot for the May primary election is just a few weeks away, I would strongly encourage everyone to apply to vote by mail. In Gage County, you may have received an application form in the mail. In Lancaster County, you must get the form from the election commission. Here’s the link: https://www.lancaster.ne.gov/331/EarlyAbsentee-Ballot

Unfortunately, there are always those who look to take advantage of others in a crisis situation. State Attorney General Doug Peterson urges caution, and wants consumers to be aware that fraudulent scams often occur during such times. You can contact that office online (email: ago.consumer@nebraska.gov) or file complaints through the state website:  https://protectthegoodlife.nebraska.gov

Another service that might be needed is legal advice. Nebraska Free Legal Answers is a website where individuals can ask civil legal questions which are answered by Nebraskan attorneys for free. This is a resource designed for low-income Nebraskans, but it is also appropriate for people who are facing hardships due to COVID-19 and cannot afford an attorney   https://ne.freelegalanswers.org/

Several state divisions are working on ways to ease the hit to our economy. The Small Business Administration has details on emergency loans. Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses. The interest rate for private non-profit organizations is 2.75 percent. 

The SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

 Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. 

Small business site: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance

Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance.

Individuals who are deaf or hardofhearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX  76155. The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 21, 2020.

The Department of Economic Development is working to inform and assist businesses during Nebraska’s ongoing response to COVID-19. Information for businesses is available on the DED website. DED is committed to serving Nebraskans facing financial challenges during this time, and understands that local economic leaders will play an important role in creating regional solutions for businesses and their workforce. The department’s Field Services Team is working with business leaders in these regions to address ongoing COVID challenges. https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/nded-covid19/   

The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) is working with the National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC) to assist the interagency crisis action task force. NAIFA’s consumer site provides individuals and businesses with information to avoid scams, tips on who to contact regarding health claims/questions, as well as how to find licensed, knowledgeable, ethical professionals to assist with financial security planning. https://security.naifa.org/covid-19

There is no question this is a stressful time, but help is available.  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Talk with a counselor, a doctor, or a clergy member anytime of the day or week. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Interpreters are available as well. 

Hotline: 1-800-985-5990 Messaging: text TalkWithUs to 66746.                                                          More information: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline

Boys Town National Hotline

The Boys Town National Hotline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and is staffed by specially trained Boys Town counselors. This is a great resource for parents/caregivers and families.

Hotline: 1-800-448-3000. Email for speech- and hearing-impaired: hotline@boystown.org.      More information:https://www.boystown.org/hotline/Pages/default.aspx

The Nebraska Family Helpline

A great resource for families concerned about a youth experiencing mental or behavioral health issues. Assistance is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.                       Helpline: 1-888-866-8660 More information:http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Nebraska-Family-Helpline.aspx

 

Nearly every state agency has information on their website. You can find links to these agencies by going to Nebraska.gov. For some specific tips, keep reading. 

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy’s Wastewater Division would like to remind people that sanitizing wipes, baby wipes and even “flushable” wipes are not flushable — regardless of what the product states. Flushed wipes cause sewer system blockages, resulting in overflows from manholes and basement backups. This can lead to expensive repairs and damage to your municipal systems or homes. Please throw sanitizing wipes in the trash.

 

Department of Labor            

Unemployment Insurance Information                          https://dol.nebraska.gov/PressRelease/Details/141

Unemployment claims should be filed online at NEworks.nebraska.gov or on the free NEworks mobile app. For more information visit:  Short-Time Compensation FAQ https://dol.nebraska.gov/stc 

 

Department of Motor Vehicles        

https://dmv.nebraska.gov/

The DMV has generated a series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) documents to assist customers with how the Governor’s recent executive order may impact them. 

 

Veterans’Affairs

A virtual visitor system to keep veterans’ home members and their families connected while the facilities are limiting entry has been launched by the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs (NDVA). Access to the four state veterans’ homes is currently limited to NDVA teammates and medical professionals only, as a precaution against COVID-19 exposure.

The Lancaster County Veteran’s Service Center is closed to the public. The office is open but no longer accepting walk-ins for claims assistance and other in-person services. Veterans with claims specific or other questions may request information via email at rringlein@lancaster.ne.gov or by telephone at 402-441-7361. Veterans can continue to get information about benefits by visiting.                                   https://www.lancaster.ne.gov/484/Veterans-Service-Center

 

Game and Parks

http://outdoornebraska.gov/healthinfo/

Nebraska Game and Parks’ public buildings are temporarily closed to public walk-in traffic until further notice. 

All events and activities are cancelled through May 31 or until further notice.

State parks and recreation areas grounds remain open for day-use, fishing and recreation.  

Park permits, fishing permits, and hunting permits should be purchased in advance online at http://outdoornebraska.gov/.

In a proactive state and national effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health of its customers and staff, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is closing viewing blinds to public access. The commission aims to protect its staff and customers by removing opportunities for crowds to gather at facilities and events and by maintaining clean areas that are available to the public.

Enjoying the crane migration is available by using several driving routes from North Platte to Hershey. Buffalo Bill Ranch State Recreation Area has a scenic drive-through where cranes can be seen flying across the North Platte River and feeding in the adjacent meadows. Early mornings and late evenings, you can watch the cranes fly over the North Platte River at Cody Park in North Platte. The North Platte/Lincoln County Visitors Bureau has a self-guided Sandhill crane driving route brochure, which is available from their office located at 101 Halligan Dr. or online at https://visitnorthplatte.com/outdoor-recreation/

Red Cross

Blood drives are NOT covered by orders restricting travel or public gatherings of more than 10 people and are considered an “essential activity,” as outlined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Eligible and healthy donors are strongly urged to make an appointment at redcrossblood.org to provide lifesaving blood products to patients.

 

County and city offices have a wide variety of adjustments to their programming right now. Remember to call ahead, or check websites. 

A map of courthouse open/closures is available here:                            https://nacone.org/pdfs/COVID-19/COVID%20-%2019%20Map.pdf

The Beatrice Area Chamber has a dedicated page of information at http://www.beatricechamber.com/covid-19-resources

Main Street Beatrice also has information available on their site at https://www.mainstreetbeatrice.org/

 

Once again I want to remind you that my office is open 24/7 thanks to technology. Leave a message or send an email at any time, and we will respond as we are able.  mdorn@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2620  Stay safe and well!

 

March 20 Update
March 21st, 2020

For many of us, the COVID-19 situation is the first experience of its kind in our lifetimes. Yet I am reminded there are many in our communities who survived historic, catastrophic worldwide events in years gone by. We can follow their example – and get through this even stronger.

I commend all those who are working on the front lines to keep medical facilities running at a high level, and the supply chain of goods flowing as needed. From shelf stockers to medical specialists, everyone is vital in this effort, and we appreciate the work they do more than ever.

Since the news changes so rapidly, I will simply go over some of the general issues that the Legislature and local governments are addressing.  Besides strict adherence to health and hygiene precautions, there are many things we can be doing to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19.

The most important directive is to stay at home if at all possible! If we all abide by the restrictions and nothing happens, that is the best outcome we could ask for.

First, let me encourage you to support your fellow community members and small local businesses in safe and healthy ways. Please call ahead before visiting any government office or organization, to confirm their office hours and changes in operations. Our local news outlets are publishing lists of restaurants who have drive-through facilities or make deliveries. The local chambers of commerce are posting new procedures that local businesses have put in place. 

These changes vividly demonstrate that there are many services and industries that must continue, and ‘working from home’ is just not an option. At the same time, many people are affected by job slow downs and layoffs, although some companies are actually hiring additional workers due to excess demand, such as Walmart. The Department of Labor is an excellent source of information for the latest announcements about financial aid and relief sources. Again, the news here changes rapidly and I encourage you to access their website for the newest details. www.dol.nebraska.gov

Another excellent source of information is the Department of Health and Human Services. You can access their page at www.dhhs.ne.gov. If you have questions about taxes or filing deadlines, go to www.revenue.nebraska.gov. For educational updates, your local school district is the best authority.

I really want to encourage you – if you need help of any kind – ask for it!  Whether it be with health, finances or the uncertainty of everything happening, there are services available. In Nebraska, a primary resource is the Rural Response Hotline at 800-464-0258. Another good number to call is 211. Assistance is available 24/7 by phone or text all across the state, with the most up-to-date information about the virus and available community resources. 

As far as the Legislature, we had a conference call with the Governor late Friday afternoon. The Governor updated the senators on the need for some emergency funding for issues the state is experiencing with the COVID-19 needs. They have asked for $58.6 million in funding for various agencies from public health to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The legislature will meet Monday, March 23 and also the following Tuesday and Wednesday to address this funding request. Speaker Scheer said that we would reconvene the session at a later date when the COVID-19 issue has settled down. 

Remember my office always remains “open” around the clock – just leave a phone message or send an email. These are being monitored by my staff and I, and we will respond. 402-471-2620  mdorn@leg.ne.gov

Resources for COVID-19
March 18th, 2020

From the office of Senator Myron Dorn, District 30

COVID-19 has forced our nation, our state and local communities to take  unprecedented measures; closures, restrictions and quarantines are becoming more common each day. I have received a few emails encouraging the state to do more in the way of helping employees who are on limited income and will be impacted by these measures. I wanted to post some information for those who may be facing financial hardship during this unprecedented shutdown.  It is not an exhaustive list but I hope it may offer some guidance.

If you are facing financial hardship, I would encourage you to contact any entity with which you have financial concerns.  If it is regarding your mortgage, energy provider, loans, etc. contact your lender and see what options they have available.  I have received information from Black Hills Energy and NPPD that they offer various assistance options such as payment arrangements and budget billing.  

The Nebraska Department of Labor is waiving the required work search requirement and the one week wait period for unemployment benefits for those who are unable to report to work due to closure or illness. The employer fee charge for the short-term benefits is also waived. More information can be accessed on the Department of Labor’s website at: www.dol.nebraska.gov 

Medicaid

Those in the Medicaid program who use one of the three managed health care MCO’s: regarding COVID-19 testing, UnitedHealthCare, Nebraska Total Care, and WellCare have all agreed to waive cost-sharing or co-payment for both the COVID-19 test and the provider visit in which the COVID-19 test is administered for their insured populations here in NebraskaCare. These providers will waive early refill restrictions for most medications for the duration of the emergency, with the only exception being narcotics and specialty drugs.   

Education

Schools across the state are transitioning from classes in the school house to e-learning. This presents challenges to many families. Every school should be providing their students and parents with information.  In addition to the particulars of each school district, here is information from the Nebraska Department of Education: www.education.ne.gov 

“Local school districts have been preparing for potential closures for weeks and many have already implemented closures to address recent presumed positive or confirmed cases of COVID-19. The NDE advises districts to continue student learning using available resources. The NDE Office of Teaching, Learning, and Assessment has compiled virtual educational resources that are available on the e-Learning Days web page, and will continue to add resources as they become available.

Nutrition

The NDE knows food insecurity for students who rely on school meals is a major concern when extended school closures become necessary. The NDE was granted approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for alternate meal service flexibility in the case of extended closures. This allows schools to serve students meals through USDA-approved meal service options, at approved sites within the community. All schools with a student population of more than 50 percent free and reduced priced lunch have the opportunity to provide meals through the Summer Food Service Program whether or not they have participated in the program. Those schools will first need to complete an application and questionnaire. Once approved, schools will be able to provide these meals to any student, regardless of their enrollment. Schools with a student population of less than 50 percent free and reduced priced lunch can provide meals to low-income students in their school on a limited basis through an application. For more information or to apply, visit the Nutrition Services page at: https://www.education.ne.gov/ns/.”

Health Information 

If you have any questions about COVID-19, please visit the University of Nebraska Medical Center/Nebraska Medicine at: https://www.nebraskamed.com/COVID

Again, this is only a partial list of places a person may go to seek information or assistance.  If you would like to have more information regarding the health aspects of COVID-19, I would recommend the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services website: www.dhhs.ne.gov 

Please continue to follow the recommended guidelines as we all work together to contain the virus and return to our normal schedules as quickly as possible. 

 

March 13 Update
March 13th, 2020

In all of our debate on the floor this week, regardless of the subject matter, conversations included the COVID-19 virus. It was a relatively productive week, moving through quite a few bills that were on first round debate. We still have a number of major issues before us, including the budget, which was taken up on Thursday, our last day of debate for the week.

Of course, the budget must now reflect the possibility that additional funds may be required to meet whatever needs arise from the virus and the effects of it. From a purely budgetary perspective, it is nearly impossible to predict what those needs might be at this time.

A briefing was held for senators and staff early in the week, bringing together representatives from Health and Human Services, Public Health departments, the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and the Nebraska Department of Education. We are fortunate here in Nebraska to have one of the top centers in the country for handling contagious disease outbreaks. That expertise has helped our state be more prepared than others. Updates and advisories do change rapidly, and if you would like to access information about COVID-19 directly, I would recommend using either the Lincoln Lancaster County Public Health site: https://lincoln.ne.gov/city/health/ or the Public Health Solutions website: https://phsneb.org/.  These websites will provide access to a wide variety of links, resources and information.

In the meantime, while we stay up to date and take precautions, work continues around District 30 on a number of fronts. This week I attended a meeting on the South Beltway project. You have no doubt seen the pre-construction projects underway between Highway 77 and Highway 2. Beginning in May, work will begin in earnest and road closures will begin to ripple across the construction zones. Once again, I would direct you to an informative website, which includes maps, a time line, announcements and contact information if you need to talk with someone in person:  https://dot.nebraska.gov/lincoln-south-beltway/.

We moved several bills forward that outline a series of requirements for the state’s youth treatment centers (YRTCs). The bills address medical services; sleeping space, hygiene, education, programming, treatment, recreation and visitation; gender separation, sufficient staffing and better case management. Other requirements adopted include developing a five year plan, defining emergency situations and plans, and a study of costs.

LB911 is a bill that would enable the city of Grand Island to gift the former Nebraska Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery and adjacent land to the state in order to establish a new state cemetery for veterans and apply for funding assistance from the federal government. There is no state or national veterans’ cemetery in central Nebraska, so Grand Island is a good location with some existing infrastructure. This bill has an “e clause” – emergency clause – which would make the bill effective immediately upon passage.

The Legislature instituted a number of changes to attempt to reduce the possibility of spreading the COVID-19 virus. Any change in the legislative calendar will be posted at www.nebraskalegislature.gov . However, my office will continue to be “open” every day as always, thanks to email and phone messages. My staff and I will monitor communications and we will respond accordingly, should you contact my office. mdorn@leg.ne.gov 402-471-2620.

Sen. Myron Dorn

District 30
Room #11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2620
Email: mdorn@leg.ne.gov
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