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The Legislature was called back to reconvene earlier this week by the Governor in order to pass emergency funding for the state of Nebraska. The Governor will use these funds for the COVID-19 pandemic here in Nebraska. He has asked for $83.6 million to be transferred from our cash reserve funds to the emergency fund. The largest portion, $38.1 million to go toward local response efforts. This will provide funding for a variety of needs like Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), other supplies for local jurisdictions, support to local health departments for staffing, and call centers. Another area that would receive funding is information technology which includes funds for additional laptops, servers, and other essential expenditures that will need to be made. Of the other funds, $13 million is for additional staffing and overtime needs for our veterans’ homes and DHHS care facilities including nursing, administrative, and other health care professionals. Overtime and surge staffing for DHHS due to the size of the response areas and the need to cover them will receive $4 million. The immediate need is for staffing in epidemiology and interpreters to meet the increased demands of the Division of Public Health. University of Nebraska Medical Center will receive approximately $3.4 million for lab equipment, software programming, personnel, COVID-19 lab testing, UV light boxes, and a Knowledge Center. UNMC has been nationally recognized as a go-to place for events like COVID-19, Ebola, and others. We are very fortunate to have such a facility in our state. The final $25 million is for “just in case” use by the Governor. If Governor Ricketts does not see a special circumstance where this money is needed I am confident he will not spend it and will return it to our cash reserves.
I know everyone is on edge with this situation. Our lives and our routines have been disrupted and that is unsettling to most of us. We have never seen anything like this in our lifetimes and the uncertainty of what our future holds can be very unnerving at times. Many of the predictions are dire and many people are scared but I am very confident it is not going to be as bad as some are predicting. This pandemic can be handled with some common sense and some discipline. I am sure if we follow what our medical experts are telling us we will get through this. Events like this will define us, our state, and our nation into the future. If we take a moment and think about past periods of crisis in our lives and how impossible it looked at the time, yet in retrospect, it was a challenge, but we survived and in most cases came out stronger for the experience. For this period in our lives, we will make adjustments and do what we have to do and keep moving forward. It may not be exactly as we had planned, but life has a way of taking a different path occasionally. At times like this, we are forced to focus on what is really important to us and readjust our priorities. I hope we all can come to the conclusion that keeping up with the Jones’ is not as important as family, friends, and neighbors. The need for everyone to be engaged in this situation is important. Also, a huge thank you needs to go out to everyone who is still working to keep us healthy, keep us safe, keep the lights on, and all of the other jobs that make our lives enjoyable. We will make the adjustments necessary to get through this pandemic and in a few months, this too shall pass.