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The Legislature finished up a second week of debate in this uncommon session, and now has two recess days built into the calendar. This is done to provide the five days needed for bills to be approved or vetoed by the Governor, giving the Legislature a chance to consider any overrides that might come up. It has also given us a break and some time to think through the major issues we discussed the past week.
LB 814 was one of those bills up for debate, which would prohibit dismemberment abortions. I am a co-sponsor of this bill. It was advanced to Select File, and will have further discussion on the floor before taking another vote to move it to Final Reading.
Of course, the other major bill brought forward was LB 1107. This legislation encompasses property tax relief, business incentives and funding for a project at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Here are the basics of the bill as it stands right now:
This is obviously a complicated issue with the bill itself spanning nearly 150 pages. I am studying the details and working with fellow senators to make sure we have covered as many bases as possible. I do want to point out that if we discover any adjustments that need to be made in the coming months, we will be back in session in January and can take up those points at that time rather than waiting another year. That is one benefit of finishing the session in August.
Please contact me at any time with your questions and concerns, and check my legislative webpage and social media for updates. You can also find information on all bills, the legislative calendar and contact information at www.nebraskalegislature.gov. 402-471-2620 firstname.lastname@example.org
The second week of this unusual session is in the books. While the perception might be that not much has been accomplished, there were nearly 50 bills on the agenda for Final Reading on Friday, which indicates many senators were able to move their priorities through the process for the sake of their districts and the state.
The three major issues which garner the most attention are still pending. Each one came to a standstill in our first week back in session, but the conversations, negotiations, clarifications and refinements are going full bore behind the scenes. I am still hopeful that we will take up these issues – property tax relief and school funding assurances, business incentives, and the UNMC project, early next week. All three of these issues have been complicated by Covid-19, the current and future costs resulting from the virus, and federal funds flowing into the state. I cannot yet say consensus has been reached, or that any of these measures will survive a gubernatorial veto, but we continue to do the work necessary to try to make it happen.
Two important hearings were added to the schedule that deal directly with current events in our state and nation. The first was held Friday afternoon in response to the introduction of LB 1222 by Senator Wayne of Omaha. LB 1222 would adopt the Municipal Police Oversight Act. Under the Act, each city which employs full-time police officers would be required to appoint a Citizen Police Oversight Board to monitor, investigate, and evaluate police standards and practices.That board would have seven members of the public appointed by the mayor with the approval of the city council. Several hours of testimony from both proponents and opponents was heard by the Urban Affairs Committee on Friday afternoon.
The second hearing was called in response to conditions in the meatpacking industry and an amendment, AM 3238 to LB 667. The Business and Labor Committee wants to provide a forum and speaking opportunities for everyone involved in the industry, from beef producers to those working on the meat packing lines, safety and health officials to those who have been infected with Covid-19. That hearing will be on Thursday, August 6th at 1:30 at the Capitol.
LB 814, introduced by Sen. Geist to ban dismemberment abortions, was debated at length earlier in the week. After three hours, debate was stopped and the introducer will need to show the Speaker that she has the 33 votes for cloture. We have just seven days remaining, with all the aforementioned issues still to be acted upon. As one of the co-sponsors of this bill, I am confident it will return in January if time prevents us from taking up LB 814 again in this session.
I appreciate your emails and calls to the office during these busy days at the Capitol. As always, you can contact me at any time by calling 402-471-2620 or email me at email@example.com.
Heat and thunderstorms, July in Nebraska. The weather may be typical but convening the Legislature in the summer, unless in a special session, is not. Of course, nothing has been typical this year. When we do convene on the 20th, to some extent we will try to pick up where we left off in March. Bills will be in the same positions as before and with that, my own priority bill is still ready for final reading. LB 1014, creates the statutory authority for the Nebraska Department of Insurance to authorize and regulate group health insurance plans that allow self-employed individuals to participate in a multiemployer healthcare arrangement under Nebraska law. This will allow organizations such as farm associations and cooperatives to offer health insurance.
There are enough priority bills pending in earlier stages of debate that we may not even get through all of those, especially with the issues before us. In addition, the Speaker has said he will not have a ‘consent calendar’, a procedure that allows non-controversial bills to move through the process efficiently; and he advised that any bill with a fiscal note will probably not advance.
July 15th, which is now tax day for 2020, and July 23rd, when the state forecasting board meets, will be crucial dates in determining what the budget will look like. The impact COVID-19 has had on revenue the last four months of the FY19-20 budget, as well as COVID-19 impacts on future revenue projections determined by the forecasting board, will determine the success of major issues such as property tax relief, school funding, and business incentives.
The Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) announced that the unemployment program is refocusing on reemployment strategies as Nebraskans continue to return to work. Job search requirements will be returning for workers claiming Unemployment Insurance benefits beginning with the week of July 12, 2020. Individuals wishing to continue to receive unemployment benefits (including the $600 federal supplement available through July 25, 2020) will be required to perform work search activities that had been waived since March 15.
NDOL reminds unemployed workers that they should report any earnings (including PPP payments) and any work refusal when filing their weekly request for payment. Failing to do so will result in an overpayment of unemployment benefits. Any overpaid benefits (including the $600 federal supplement) must be repaid before an individual can receive any future unemployment benefits. Additionally, failing to report earnings and work refusals can be considered fraud and the individual could be subject to fines and criminal prosecution. For more information go to NEworks.nebraska.gov.
The Paycheck Protection Program resumed accepting applications July 6, 2020. The new deadline to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan is August 8, 2020. More details about PPP here. Also, check into the resources available if you have trouble paying your utility bills.
Nebraska NET television broadcasts the Legislature in session, a link can be found on the Unicameral website. Look for the red NET logo on the right side of the page. You can also follow the progress of all bills, find contact information for all senators and additional information here: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/
My office has been open and continues to be accessible around the clock by calling 402-471-2620 to leave your message. Or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org I appreciate your calls and messages. Stay safe and well!
Happy Independence Day! Our nation has been tested in the past, is facing challenges today, and no doubt will in the future. I am confident that our system of government and the compassion, strength and tenacity of our people will ensure that this legacy of democracy will be preserved as we work together.
Thank you to all the many workers, teachers, caregivers, elected officials and others who have helped navigate our counties, our state, and our economy through this Covid-19 situation. So many individuals have given of their time and talents to make Nebraska a great place to live, and a great home for our future generations.
To that end, we all continue to manage the present crisis as best we can. The Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) will begin offering the Extended Benefits (EB) program for eligible individuals who exhaust their previous unemployment benefits. Under federal law, the EB program offers up to an additional 13 weeks of benefits to individuals who have exhausted any regular unemployment benefits and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits for which they were eligible. Eligibility criteria is available here: https://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/UIPL/UIPL_24-20.pdf
Lincoln Electric System will resume normal billing operations in July. As of June, most past due bills are likely six months old at this point. Standard disconnect notices will be mailed in mid-July. LES officials pointed out that there are currently 2,100 customers who have not contacted LES to make arrangements for past due bills, which is 350% higher than is typical, and account for nearly $1 million in past due balances.
Utility bill financial assistance IS available but the customer must take the action. If you are struggling to pay your electric bill, contact LES at 402-475-4211 or email@example.com to set up a flexible plan and not get even further behind. Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County has funds available through the Energy Assistance Program , but you must apply for assistance. Contact them at 402-471-4515 or go to www.communityactionatwork.org for more information. You can also find help through Catholic Social Services, Legal Aid, and the Department of Health and Human Services, www.dhhs.ne.gov.
It is important to know that utility charges still apply, they were not erased and are still due even though disconnect procedures were suspended for the past few months. Other power districts are also making similar changes. For more information and exact details, be sure to contact your specific utility suppliers.
We are now just a couple weeks away from coming back together at the Capitol for the remainder of the legislative session. I have been working with a group of senators trying to come up with an acceptable plan for property tax relief. As I have said before, if this were an easy fix, it would have been done by now. Bringing all affected parties together, where everyone feels treated fairly, is no easy task. Of course, current events compound this issue to an even greater degree than we had a year ago when consensus was already difficult to reach. We will keep at it, a solution is possible but it will take a great deal of effort.
Please continue to reach out to my office with your concerns and comments. You can communicate at any time by leaving a message at 402-471-2620 or sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy the 4th of July and stay safe and well.
It is officially summer, with the longest day of the year behind us. Of course, it had felt like summer for several weeks with hot and windy weather creating challenges for crops, livestock and people. Then the rain came in abundance, resulting in other problems. In other words, typical Nebraska.
We are less than a month away from the Legislature coming back into session. At this time, we are set to convene on July 20th and meet for 17 days, finishing up in mid-August. The Legislative coordinator has been working hard to make the floor of the Chamber meet distancing guidelines, and the building will be ready to accommodate the session.
One positive aspect about this long recess is that it has provided additional time to consider and work through some legislative topics. Of course, the opposite is also true, because now there are more issues and a greatly impacted budget to tackle. Any measures that require funding will be contingent on federal subsidies flowing in, State of Nebraska revenue and the projections of the Forecasting Board, which will meet on July 23rd.
Regarding revenue coming into the state, Nebraska’s income tax is tied to the federal income tax. In the CARES act funding, several adjustments were made to the federal income tax and those adjustments are projected to have a net loss of revenue for Nebraska in the coming fiscal year, FY20-21, of over $125 million; $67 million in FY21-22, and $57 million in FY22-23. The Revenue Committee received that data on June 16 from the Nebraska Department of Revenue. The Committee has not yet decided on a course of action to be presented to the Legislature to deal with that shortfall.
We know our state’s citizens are sturdy and resilient, but it is always good to lend a helping hand or ask for help when it is needed in these current times. You can find a list of all state departments and divisions at www.nebraska.gov and links to federal programs at www.usa.gov . Specific to agriculture producers in District 30, go to www.farmers.gov. I encourage you to scroll through the options on these sites. If you cannot find what you need, contact my office and we will point you in the right direction.
County and local government agencies and private organizations are also working together to meet health, economic and social needs. A good place to start might be to place a call to 2-1-1. This is not an emergency number, but it will connect you to a wide variety of resources.
Through the federal programs, additional SNAP benefits are now available. Families who are already participating in SNAP do not need to apply and will have their benefits automatically placed on their EBT card. Families who are not currently participating in SNAP but have been determined eligible by their schools to receive free or reduced-priced lunches will need to apply for P-EBT through the P-EBT online application and will receive a specific “P-EBT” card. A family’s address must be registered with the post office to ensure delivery of the P-EBT card. The application period will run from June 22, 2020 to July 19, 2020. Families who do not have access to the internet to apply online can call the ACCESSNebraska hotline at 800-383-4278 to apply or stop by participating food banks that can help fill out applications in person.
The past few months have shown us ways to adapt to our circumstances and improve access to services such as tele-health. At the same time, situations that need our attention, such as accessible broadband, have been revealed. It is my hope that we will retain the good, and work diligently to improve the health, race and social, and economic concerns facing all of us in the months ahead. Please contact my office if we can be of assistance, at 402-471-2620 to leave a message, or email me at email@example.com.
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. firstname.lastname@example.org 402-471-2620. Stay safe!
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. email@example.com 402-471-2620
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.
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).
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. firstname.lastname@example.org 402-471-2620. Follow the guidelines and stay well!
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 email@example.com 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.
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