NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Sue Crawford

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45

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 scrawford@leg.ne.gov

Legislative Update

This week the Speaker announced that we would be returning to finish our Legislative Session on July 20, assuming that no spikes in outbreaks occur.  The Speaker and our legislative staff have been hard at work with the Lancaster County Department of Public Health to devise ways to make the Chamber safer for us to return.  This includes provisions like plastic shields between the rows, spreading out our seating arrangement and providing masks.  Meanwhile, as Rules Chair I have been involved in discussions about whether we could also incorporate remote participation for those at greatest risk.  

When we return, we have 17 legislative days left.  By the end of July we will hopefully be in a safer space and we also should know more about the economic impact of COVID on our tax receipts for the year. When we return, we will have the same bills on the agenda as when we left.  Any changes in laws that may be critical to address issues related to the pandemic will need to be considered as amendments onto existing bills or approved for debate by a suspension of the rules.  By our rules, all new bills must be introduced in the first ten days of session.

While the bills may be the same, the economic conditions clearly are not what we anticipated when we introduced these bills in January.  Many of us are spending hours during this break from the legislature talking about how to move forward on some of the policy concerns, like property taxes and economic development incentives, given the drop we expect in revenue for the year and the likelihood that we will experience at least two years of economic downturn from this pandemic.    

While we are not in session, the Governor has addressed several issues related to the pandemic through executive orders.  He also has broad discretion to spend many of the CARES Act dollars.  Consequently, much of our efforts to directly address pandemic concerns in the immediate term have been through advocating the Governor to act.  For example, early in the pandemic several of the Senators urged the Governor to issue an executive order to reduce the threat of evictions.  We appreciate that he did issue such an order, which is now set to expire May 31.  Some of us urged him to expand the order, but he chose not to do so.  On Friday, I sent a letter to the Governor, along with ten other co-signing Senators, urging him to use some CARES Act dollars on rental assistance to help stabilize the rental market and avoid an eviction cliff that we expect will otherwise occur after the executive order is lifted.  This is just one example of how the CARES Act dollars could be spent to help Nebraskans.  Ongoing conversations have been occurring over how the funding could be used including helping to fund front line services in our cities and counties, providing small business relief and providing pandemic property tax relief to forestall foreclosures.  

The Governor proclaimed this week National Emergency Medical Services Week in Nebraska. First responders, emergency medical technicians and paramedics have been on the front lines of the COVID crisis and we are grateful to them for their hard work.

As we approach Memorial Day weekend, it is just as important as ever to continue practicing safe social distancing and staying connected to one another. Thank you for doing your part to stay safe and healthy. On Monday our legislative office will be closed.  Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

Memorial Day Virtual Ceremony

Though an in-person ceremony is not possible this year, there will be a Memorial Day ceremony streamed live from the Capitol Rotunda on NET all day long on Monday, May 25.

Mental Health and Child Mental Health Month

May is National Mental Health and Child Mental Health Month in Nebraska. Over 20% of Nebraskans deal with mental health issues. The Department of Health and Human Services and Governor Ricketts worked this week to bring attention to some of the resources that are available for Nebraskans that are in need of support and to normalize the conversation around mental health.

Sheri Dawson, Director of Behavioral Health for DHHS, spoke on Wednesday about what we can do to best care for ourselves and our mental health during the pandemic. She recommended taking time for self care, getting sufficient sleep and exercise and having a support system in place. The Red Cross is offering a free psychological first aid class for those who want to learn strategies for supporting themselves and others during the COVID crisis.

The focus of DHHS’s Facebook Live event this week was on child mental health and coping skills. Nathan Busch with Nebraska Children and Families Foundation stressed the importance of checking in with children, establishing a routine when possible and monitoring mood swings. Children may have physical responses to stress or a change in routine as well, like stomach aches or headaches. An important tip he shares with families is to utilize video conferencing services like Zoom to help children make a safe face-to-face connection with friends and family. As always, the Nebraska Family Helpline is available to help and answer questions for parents and guardians at 1-888-866-8660.

If you or someone you know is struggling, the Nebraska Family Helpline mentioned above, Community Action Partnerships and United Way all have professionals who are happy to provide support. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or you can find the online chat option here.

Governor’s Executive Orders and Announcements

DHM Updates Announced

At his press conference on Thursday, Governor Ricketts announced the new directed health measures that will be put in place at the beginning of June. These changes include but are not limited to: bars being able to open at 50% rated capacity, and fitness facilities, salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors and massage therapy services being able to open with a limit of 25 people or 50% of rated occupancy. Though these facilities are allowed to open at the beginning of the month, the expectation that people will maintain six foot distance from each other and wear masks whenever possible is still in place.

These updates apply to 89 Nebraska counties.  The Central and Dakota Public Health Districts will not be loosening restrictions for the time being. Specifics about the loosening restrictions and DHMs can be found here.

FHA Order Update

In mid-March, we shared information about a federal order that was issued regarding a foreclosure and eviction moratorium for borrowers with FHA-backed single family mortgages. On May 14th that order was extended through June 30. More information about this extension is available here.

Reopening Resources for Businesses

The Bellevue Chamber shared a number of great resources for businesses reopening in the coming weeks that we share below.  Also this week the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce released their guidance for area businesses reopening.

Reopening guidelines published by DHHS can be found here.

The Small Business Administration’s debt relief options are published on their website, with Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness applications here.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce website has posted articles with information about technology, human resources, and business financing.

If you have questions about your business, the Nebraska Business Development Center is happy to help. Their phone number is 402-554-6232.

Other Resources

The Nebraska National Guard has provided incredible support to Nebraskans at testing sites and food banks throughout the COVID crisis. For those who would like to see what they have been up to the past several months, the Nebraska National Guard frequently updates an online photo album at this link.

The Women’s Fund of Omaha highlights helpful resources for women during the pandemic. Information for those that are experiencing domestic violence, struggling to pay bills, or seeking a support network can be found at their website.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402) 471-2615.

All the best,

Legislative Update

This week the Governor signed a proclamation recognizing our police forces in Nebraska during this National Police Week.  We extend our gratitude to our police who have also had to respond in new ways during this COVID crisis.  It is also National Skilled Nursing Care week.  Long term care nurses continue to provide quality care to the most vulnerable in our state throughout the pandemic. If you know a team member at a long-term care facility, be sure to thank them for their hard work.

Thank you to all who made the primary elections a success this year.  There was very high turnout.  Great job requesting those ballots and getting them turned in! 

This week, First Lady Susanne Shore discussed the work of Nebraska Impact and its COVID-19 Relief Fund. The organization has raised more than $340,000 to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in Nebraska and has distributed more than $250,000 worth of food thus far to people in some of Nebraska’s hardest hit communities. Money donated to the Nebraska Impact COVID19 Relief Fund is being directed through the statewide Community Collaboratives, like our own Lift Up Sarpy, that are part of Bring Up Nebraska, a program administered by Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. Funds are helping individual communities meet their needs for food, rent, and utility assistance, as well as school supplies for students from low-income families now studying from home. To donate to the fund, visit https://neimpact.org/.

If you are interested in sewing and donating cloth face masks to Nebraska’s vulnerable populations, visit this link. Masks can be mailed to Nebraska Impact, 201 N 8th St., Suite 215, Lincoln, NE 68508 or you can arrange a pickup in the Lincoln or Omaha area by emailing masks@neimpact.org.

This upcoming Wednesday is Omaha Gives! 2020. This will be the 8th annual Omaha Gives, a one-day online fundraising event to support local nonprofits. This year financial support is even more crucial to keeping these organizations running and serving Omaha-area residents. 

For a list of all Sarpy County nonprofits that are seeking donations on May 20th, click here.

For a list of Bellevue nonprofits that are seeking donations on May 20th, click here.

Thank you for all that you are doing to stay safe and help one another during this time!

Governor’s Announcements

Youth Baseball and Softball

Governor Ricketts announced this week that youth baseball and softball practices will be allowed beginning June 1 with games beginning June 18. Players will need to use their own helmets, gloves and bats as much as possible. Fans will be limited to only household members who must bring their own chairs and stay six feet apart from other fans. That said, practices are still not allowed for group sports at this time.

DHHS Dashboard

The Department of Health and Human Services recently updated its COVID-19 dashboard to include death data by county and added data related to hospital capacity. To view county specific data, just click on the county within the Nebraska map. Additionally, on the hospital capacity tab, there is now the number of Nebraska hospital beds available and total hospital beds, the number of ICU beds available and the total number of ICU beds, and the number of ventilators available and the total number of ventilators in the state.

Virtual Memorial Day Celebration

Because of the COVID-19, many Memorial Day events have been cancelled. In order to celebrate these veterans, NET will broadcast a virtual observance at 8 a.m on May 25 from the Capitol Rotunda. The Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs website also has a plethora of resources available on their page for those that may be seeking help during the COVID outbreak. Click this link and scroll to the bottom of the page to see their full list of resources.

Resources

Reopening Guidelines

Several new guidance documents are available under the Reopening Guidelines section including: recommended best practices for barbershops and salons, massage therapist, body art shops; recommended office re-opening protocols from the Nebraska Dental Association; guidelines for conduct of faith-based services including weddings and funerals; restaurant dining room reopening guidelines.

FEMA has also released planning considerations for organizations that plan to reopen in the coming weeks. Their recommendations are available here.

Mental Health Resource

The Munroe-Meyer Institute Psychology Department at UNMC is offering free behavioral telehealth consultations to individuals and families, regardless of insurance coverage. Consultation services are offered via Zoom or by phone. To schedule and appointment, call 402-559-6408.

For Children and Families

Boys Town has updated their library of parenting information and articles at their website. This library includes downloadable resources that can help families get through the 

Bellevue Public Schools P.E. teachers worked to create a fun video to wish students a happy summer (while still appropriately social distancing). If you have a BPS student who is missing their classmates and teachers, the video can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts8HhgCVeEM and may boost their mood.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402) 471-2615.

All the best,

Legislative Update

Each week on Monday I participate in a call through Lift Up Sarpy that brings together people from various organizations across our community that are reaching out to help our families struggling during this crisis.  This week one of the collaborative efforts that several callers highlighted as a game changer for families in Bellevue was the Metro Area Continuum of Care (MACC).  MACC has done a wonderful job supporting families who are presently experiencing or are at risk of homelessness in this challenging time. In Sarpy County over 72 families have qualified for prevention dollars to help stabilize their housing situation. If you think you or someone you know may be eligible for their prevention dollars you can contact the Bellevue Access Point at 402-682-6602 or by email at amanda.parker@bellevue.net. Families need only to have a risk of homelessness in the next 20 days to make a request for intervention.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. All over Nebraska teachers are adapting to online learning, making an effort to keep up with their students though they aren’t seeing them in the classroom and continuing to promote learning. Thank you for all of your work to keep our kids connected to learning during this time!  Bellevue Public Schools shared a template this week for students to thank their teachers for the important work they do. If you are a teacher and you would like to recognize one of your colleague’s outstanding work, you might consider nominating them for Nebraska Teacher of the Year (2021). More information is available on Nebraska’s Department of Education website.

This week is also Nurse Appreciation Week.  Our nurses have been frontline heroes during this COVID 19 crisis.  I encourage you to reach out to your favorite nurses and thank them for their service.  

Next week is the primary election.  If you have a ballot sitting on your counter, now is the time to turn it in!  Ballots must arrive at the County Election Office by 8:00 PM on Tuesday, May 12.  The deadline for dropping off ballots in drop boxes is the same. As we note below, there is a drop box for ballots in front of the Bellevue Library; ballots must be in the drop box 8:00pm. 

Lastly, a reminder as restrictions are relaxed that directed health measures vary between public health districts. The state’s most recent directed health care measures are online and can be found by clicking here. A map of Nebraska’s local health departments is available by clicking here.

Primary Election May 12th

This upcoming Tuesday is the Nebraska primary. Due to COVID, some polling places were relocated. Please see this webpage to double check if your polling place has been moved. There is no in-person early voting for this election, though voters needing assistance with marking their ballots can make an appointment to come in up until the end of the business day on May 11th. There are four drive-up ballot drop boxes for mail ballot return; the Bellevue ballot drop box is at 1003 Lincoln Road in the Bellevue Public Library parking lot. If you have questions or concerns about your ballot or voting, contact the Sarpy County Election Commission at 402-593-2167.

Unemployment Update

This week Commissioner John Albin provided an update on unemployment benefits and claims. 94,000 claims have been processed since mid-March with 22,000 people moved into payment status just this week. For claimants who are reporting combined wages or who have worked in more than one state, your claim may take longer to process. If you or someone you know has applied for unemployment and have not received a response in 28 days, contact our office at scrawford@leg.ne.gov and we can help expedite your claim. 

Food Banks in Need

The Nebraska Food Security Task Force is working to help thousands of Nebraskans who rely upon food banks, pantries and school lunch programs for their next meal. Because of social distancing guidelines, fewer volunteers are available to help distribute food. The food banks will resume accepting non-perishable food but until that’s possible, Nebraskans can still help by making monetary donations or sponsoring a fundraiser. To donate to the Food Bank for the Heartland which serves Nebraska and western Iowa please visit their website. To donate to the Bellevue Food Pantry, send a check to 1908 Hancock Street, Bellevue NE 68005 or visit the ENCAP donor portal at http://encapnebraska.org/donations/.

Sarpy County Virtual Baby Shower

For expectant mothers and households with children 15 months or younger in Sarpy County, ENCAP and Lift Up Sarpy will be partnering to host a Virtual Baby Shower. Gift bags will be available for pick-up on June 4th and 5th and a parent training event will follow on June 6th. For more information, please see the invitation page here.

Resources

The Department of Health and Human Services’s Facebook Live event this week highlighted the Nebraska Family Helpline, a wonderful resource for Nebrakan’s that are experiencing issues with their children in the home or who need help connecting with local resources. Helpline staff is available 24/7 at 888-866-8660. More information about the helpline is available on the DHHS website here.

St. Paul Methodist Church in Papillion is partnering with Lift Up Sarpy to provide diapers to families in need. To contact them for more information, their phone number is 402-439-3308.

Visit Omaha has launched their Virtual Visitor page for Nebraskans seeking at-home learning experiences and activities.. Tours of renowned attractions such as The Omaha Zoo, Durham Museum, Fontenelle Forest and Omaha Symphony are all accessible at this link. The full calendar of virtual events can be found here.

Two videos translated into six languages have been uploaded to Gov. Ricketts YouTube channel. One video highlights 10 ways to stay healthy and keep your family healthy during the pandemic. The other video provides tips on what to do if you or family members become ill or have been exposed to the virus. The videos are available in: Spanish, Arabic, Karen, Somali, Nepalese and French.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402) 471-2615.

All the best,

Legislative Update

I want to start my update this week with a shout out to my staff – Lillian and Hanna. During this crisis they have been working hard from their homes to make sure that we’re doing all that we can to help our constituents and to continue to press for clarifications and changes where needed. Lillian has been busy following up with people who have unemployment claims over 28 days old. If you or someone you know has applied for unemployment and has not received a response in 28 days, contact our office and we can help expedite your claim. Hanna has been tracking federal policy changes to see how they impact what we can do here in Nebraska and following up with agencies on questions about our current pandemic exemptions and policies. Meanwhile we are all attending various webinars on the Corona crisis to learn from other states and experts to improve what we are doing here in Nebraska. For example, this week I attended a session on state support for distance learning, a multi-state strategy zoom meeting on paid leave and a webinar on the impact of the CARES Act on state budgets. If you see interesting examples of how other states are helping their citizens during this crisis, or you have an idea of how the state could respond, feel free to send us an email.

The Department of Health and Human Services held their weekly Facebook Live event on Wednesday and this week’s topic was behavioral health and wellness. Sheri Dawson, Director of the Division of Behavioral Health, shared that it is imperative we prioritize our mental health during this unprecedented and difficult time. She shared several tips for doing so, including structuring the day, monitoring emotions and reaching out to your healthcare provider if you have concerns. Several wellness resources and hotlines were also shared which I have included below in our ‘resources’ section.

Each weekday Governor Ricketts holds a press conference to announce any executive orders or changes in policy related to the pandemic. We summarize those announcements in our newsletter, but if you would like to watch them live, you can access them through Facebook or here.

Thank you for your continued dedication to keeping other Nebraskans safe. Though some restrictions will be loosened in the coming days, it is important to continue prioritizing our health and safety. Please be careful and continue to protect yourself and those most vulnerable in our community. Yesterday was the beginning of Census Digital Action Weekend. If you haven’t completed your Census form yet, see our story below and do it this weekend! Next Tuesday is Giving Tuesday. Several of our Bellevue nonprofits are participating. See the story on that below and consider giving during this upcoming week.

2020 Census

As of April 28th, Sarpy County had an impressive self response rate of 70.2%, the highest rate in the state. It also has the highest internet response rate in the state at 65.5%. This information comes directly from the U.S. Census Bureau. If you have not yet filled out the 2020 Census however, visit the Census website linked here. It will be easiest if you have your 12-digit census ID number that was printed on the form that was sent to your residence. However, if you don’t have a Census ID number but want to fill out the form online, you still can; there’s an option when logging on that reads – ‘If you do not have a Census ID, click here‘. There is no citizenship question. A helpful resource for those who speak English as a second language is language guide videos, available here. Anyone can access the website and get assistance in their first language.

Governor’s Announcements and Executive Orders

Sarpy County DHM

On May 4th the previous Directed Health Measure for Sarpy County will be relaxed. Changes will include: restaurant dining rooms can operate at 50% capacity; hair salons, beauty salons and massage services can open while maintaining the 10-person rule with clients and providers wearing masks; childcare facilities will be permitted to have up to 15 children per room/space; and places of worship may open with each household sitting six feet apart from one another. All other businesses currently ordered to close must remain closed until May 31st. This includes movie theaters, bottle clubs and bars. See here for more information.

Unemployment Executive Order

Governor Ricketts announced this week that he is waiving a statute in an effort to speed up the process of paying unemployment claims. He is allowing processors to check only the last place of employment instead of all previous places of employment for people applying for assistance.

Giving Tuesday Now

On May 5, 2020, many Bellevue organizations are participating in Giving Tuesday Now, a global day of unity and giving. Nebraska’s Giving Tuesday Now, powered by Share Omaha, serves as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19 and provides a platform for local nonprofits and organizations to seek donations. If you go to the Giving Tuesday Now website and click ‘give now’ you can enter Bellevue and find the nonprofits in our community who are participating. Some examples include the Fontenelle Forest, the Bellevue Public Schools Foundation and Friends of the Bellevue Public Library. Some examples of the Sarpy County organizations that are participating are Lift Up Sarpy County and The Sarpy County Museum.

Unemployment Updates on Eligibility

The Department of Labor has paid out the equivalent of two years’ worth of claims in the last month. They are reminding unemployment recipients that declining to return to work, quitting a job without good cause, and declining suitable work can make you ineligible for benefits. More information about these actions are available on the DOL website. Workers who are called back by their employer but working reduced hours may still qualify for benefits. These workers should continue to file weekly claims at NEworks.nebraska.gov and report all earnings. If a worker is earning more than their previous weekly benefit amount, they will not be eligible for benefits for that week. Workers whose employers have an approved Short-Time Compensation plan can also receive a partial unemployment benefit. For more information, visit dol.nebraska.gov.

Those individuals who are in a high risk category and whose employers are calling them back to work should ask their employer to not to call them back to work until there is minimal or no risk. By working with an employer on this matter, they will not be reported to DOL as having received a job offer and will not lose their benefits. If your employer is not willing to work with you on the issue, please reach out to your health care provider. A note from a doctor advising that a person self-quarantines related to COVID-19 is a qualifying reason to not return to work. We will be sharing more guidance about this in the next week.

Get Nebraska Growing Task Force

Director of Economic Development Tony Goins announced this week that he will lead a task force to restore Nebraska’s economy and help local businesses. The task force will be working over the next several weeks to identify best practices and guidelines for businesses impacted by COVID. Community leaders who have ideas to share with the task force can send them to ded.info@nebraska.gov. Community leaders can also call 800-426-6505 for more information.

Guidance for Nurseries and Garden Centers

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture has created guidance for nurseries and garden centers to help keep customers healthy. All nurseries and garden centers should first consult with their local health department to ensure that the business is able to meet all local health department guidelines. Nursery and garden center guidance and additional agriculture-related information, like farmers market guidance, can be found on NDA’s website.

Leadership Sarpy Deadline Extended

The Leadership Sarpy application for the 2020/2021 Class has been extended to Tuesday, June 30th. The application is available here and more information about the program can be found at this link.

Resources

Outlook Nebraska is providing assistance for people who have a vision condition and who are struggling to get essentials during the pandemic. Their resource page is linked here, with information about food security, help with rent and utility payments and elderly-specific information.

Mizzen by Mott is a new app built with and for parents, teachers and afterschool professionals to provide high-quality, engaging learning content. To meet current needs amidst the COVID outbreak and with more parents teaching at home, the Mizzen team has added new activity playlists and multi-week modules that can be done at home or in small-group settings. More information about the app is available here. The app itself is free on mobile app stores.

Resources to Promote Wellness or Seek Support

The Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska through UNMC is offering free yoga and meditation sessions on their website.

The CDC has published suggestions for dealing with a disaster or traumatic event here.

The Nebraska Rural Response Line is a statewide hotline to respond to farmers and ranchers who are dealing with stress, depression or other mental illnesses. The hotline number is 1-800-464-0258.

Behavioral Health Region Six providing service for the Sarpy, Douglas, Cass area has a list of region-specific resources on their webpage. They also have a 24-hour crisis line that people can call at 402-717-HOPE (4673).

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402) 471-2615.

All the best,

Legislative Update

We’re nearly through April.  It has been a long and strange month.  Thank you to everyone who has helped us to stay home, stay healthy, and stay connected.  Thursday would have been the last day of session in ordinary times.  Now we have 17 session days left, but we don’t know when those will occur.  The Speaker has said that we will come back when it is safe to do so.  He also said that we would not convene within two weeks before the election (May 12), so late May would be the earliest we would meet.  I suspect it will be later.  Whenever we hear any updates, we will pass those along.  

Just a reminder, May 1st is the deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot.  I am repeating those instructions again below – my apologies for the duplication, but I want to make sure that everyone knows how to request a mail ballot.  

At the Governor’s press conference on Wednesday, the Executive Director of the League of Nebraska Municipalities highlighted several important issues. First, she encouraged strict adherence to the social distancing guidelines at public parks and asked that people only visit parks that are close to home. Secondly, they are noticing that people are still using playground equipment in some municipalities. As of March 30th, play structures are closed to limit the spread of the virus. If you are visiting parks with your children, please avoid playground equipment and any other restricted areas for your safety and theirs. The virus can live on plastic and metal surfaces for several days so it is in our best interest as a community to avoid those areas. Lastly, there has been an uptick in people flushing non-flushable items. Please do not flush baby wipes, moist toilettes or paper towels which back up sewage lines.

We are maintaining a resource page on our blog here. If you have a resource you would like to share, please get in touch with our office at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or at 402-471-2615.

Prepare Now to Vote by Mail this May

All residents of Sarpy County should have received a white postcard-sized form in the mail last month that has a ballot request. If you received this form, simply sign it, stamp it and put it in the mail. If you do not have this form, Voter Registration Applications and Early Ballot Request Forms may be found here. Ballots will be mailed out in the order requests are received, beginning on April 6. Though the Sarpy County Election Commission is closed to the public, the forms will also be available outside of their (locked) doors at 501 Olson Drive, Suite 4, in Papillion. The ballot drop box at the same address is available for people to turn in their completed forms. Forms must be signed or they will not be counted. Another way to submit your request form is to take a picture of your form and send it to earlyvote@sarpy.com. I strongly encourage you to request a vote by mail ballot to make our primary elections as safe and healthy as possible.  

Governor’s Executive Orders & Announcements

TestNebraska Unveiled

This week Governor Ricketts introduced Test Nebraska, a new three-phase program that will assess, test and track COVID-19 cases in our state. Nebraskans can visit testnebraska.com to complete an online assessment which takes around five minutes.

Elective Surgeries

Governor Ricketts announced the state’s first step to relax health measures implemented to slow the spread of the virus. On May 4th, hospitals may resume elective surgeries. Hospitals and healthcare facilities must meet requirements for available bed capacity and have an adequate PPE supply. 

Federal Update

This week the Senate passed its fourth relief package. The package includes $484 billion in funds to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, support hospitals and expand testing. It also allocates funds to economic injury disaster grant programs for disaster recovery loans. As of Thursday afternoon the House was on track to pass it and the President had shared that he planned to sign it immediately.

Local Update

Bellevue Housing

Those who currently reside in subsidized housing or have a housing voucher are encouraged to file a Change in Income form, available for download here. Once you have completed your form you can email it to admin@sarpyhousing.org or send it by mail to 8214 Armstrong Circle, Bellevue, NE 68147. They can also provide assistance over the phone at 402-734-5448. If you choose to call, they will still send you a change form for a signature which holds you accountable for any changes made. Your status will be updated immediately.

More information about income changes is available here.

Food Pantry through Together Inc.

Mondays through Fridays from 12:00PM – 2:00PM, Together Inc. in Omaha will be hosting a drive through food pantry for Omaha-area residents and those in need. The food pantry is located off of 25th and Leavenworth Street, Omaha, 68108. 

Directions: Head east on Leavenworth Street and stay in the right lane. At 25th Street, turn south. There will be a person directing traffic. Please let the Together staff member know the number of people in your household, the number of households you are picking up for and your zip code.The Together building is located at 812 S 24th Street, Omaha 68108. The drive through pantry will be off 25th and Leavenworth Street in the back of this building.

If there are any updates pertaining to drive through hours or operations, they can be found at https://www.facebook.com/TogetherOmaha

Game and Parks Information

As the weather gets nicer, it is important to comply with the public health safety measures that Nebraska Game and Parks has put in place. Cancellations, postponements and closures are now all listed at OutdoorNebraska.org/healthinfo. They also have a detailed FAQ page here. Though overnight camping is currently prohibited through May 8th (with the possibility of an extension), State Parks and recreation areas continue to be open for day use, fishing and recreation, but they are still encouraging visitors to maintain a six-foot distance from one another and limiting social interaction. Park passes can be purchased online at their website here.

Plasma Donations

In coordination with the FDA, the Red Cross, along with other blood donation centers, 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 their website.

Farmers Market Guidance

We are quickly approaching what would usually be a busy season for farmers markets and their vendors. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture has created guidance for farmers markets to help keep vendors and customers healthy and to slow the spread of COVID-19. Guidance and additional information for agriculture producers can be found on NDA’s website.

DHHS Accommodation Program

For Nebraskans working on the front lines that have been exposed to COVID-19 and are in need of a quarantine and/or isolation location outside of the home, accommodations will be available in a dorm room setting and are open to anyone that meets the application criteria. Applications can be completed here. As the need for this program grows across the State, so will the number of locations.

More information on guidelines will be available here under the Nebraska Accommodation Project (NAP) header.

Resources

Though much of our state’s workforce has been temporarily sidelined by the COVID-19 crisis, many parents must still report to jobs outside their homes. A number of early childhood organizations and advocates have collaborated to create and launch the Nebraska Child Care Referral Network—a searchable database for parents seeking to connect with available child care resources during the COVID-19 crisis. This website can help parents find quality emergency child care.

WIC appointments and applications can be made over the phone even though WIC offices are closed. Individuals can call their local office and will then be directed to someone for help. Local office contact information can be found here by searching a zip code. Bellevue’s WIC office number is 402-734-2028. Physical presence requirements have been waived for WIC.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402) 471-2615.

All the best,

Legislative Update

This week has been another week of the new routine during the COVID crisis.  On Mondays I have the opportunity to sit in on a zoom meeting with many of our nonprofit organizations across Bellevue who have stepped up to help our families.  It is great to see how so many people are collaborating to address the needs of our kids and families. On Wednesdays state and local officials have a call with the White House.  On Fridays I join a zoom meeting with local business leaders through the Greater Bellevue Chamber of Commerce’s coffee with Kevin. It has been impressive to see how businesses are adjusting at this time. Each day at 2:00 the Governor holds a press conference and around 5:00 the White House holds a briefing. Throughout the week we often have webinars on topics related to addressing the COVID crisis.  For example, this week I had a webinar with the Council of State Governments on Health and Human Services issues. In between our office works to answer questions, do research on the changes in state and federal policy and research for current and future bills. I am grateful to my staff for their excellent work from their homes during this time. Meanwhile I am teaching my courses and working with students at Creighton, now all online.    

During the Governor’s press conference on Friday the Director of our state Behavioral Health programs encouraged Nebraskans to pay attention to their own and others’ mental health.  She encourages Nebraskans to initiate a Wellness Wednesday call to someone and then a Follow Up Friday to follow up with that person. I encourage you to stay connected and find ways to reach out to one another during this time. 

While we are spending as much time at home as possible, let me encourage you to spend some of this time requesting a mail ballot, filling out your census forms, and donating to our nonprofits who are reaching out to our families during this time.  I included information about requesting a ballot and filling out the census in last week’s newsletter, but I am including it again this week. One opportunity to contribute to nonprofits that I will highlight this week is the opportunity to donate to the Bellevue Food Pantry (Donations can be sent to the Bellevue Food Pantry, 1908 Hancock St., Bellevue NE 68005).  Thank you to so many who are home sewing masks at this time, see below for another opportunity to contribute masks. Thank you to my church friend who sewed masks for me and my family! If you are venturing out, I encourage you to consider donating blood.  I did recently and was impressed with all of the precautions that they are taking from taking temperatures to sanitizing all of the surfaces and equipment.   

We continue adding new resources as we learn about them to our website.  If you are providing a resource and would like us to help get the word out, let us know at scrawford@leg.ne.gov.

Thank you for prioritizing the safety of all Nebraskans by staying home and staying healthy.

It’s Census Time

Now is the time to fill out your census form.  This is a critical service to your community to make sure that every person in our community is counted.  To fill out the 2020 Census, visit the Census website linked here. It will be easiest if you have your 12-digit census ID number that was printed on the form that was sent to your residence. However, if you don’t have a Census ID number but want to fill out the form online, you still can; there’s an option when logging on that reads – ‘If you do not have a Census ID, click here‘. There is no citizenship question.

Prepare Now to Vote by Mail this May

All residents of Sarpy County should have received a white postcard-sized form in the mail last month that has a ballot request. If you received this form, simply sign it, stamp it and put it in the mail. If you do not have this form, Voter Registration Applications and Early Ballot Request Forms may be found here. Ballots will be mailed out in the order requests are received, beginning on April 6. Though the Sarpy County Election Commission is closed to the public, the forms will also be available outside of their (locked) doors at 501 Olson Drive, Suite 4, in Papillion. The ballot drop box at the same address is available for people to turn in their completed forms. Forms must be signed or they will not be counted. Another way to submit your request form is to take a picture of your form and send it to earlyvote@sarpy.com. I strongly encourage you to request a vote by mail ballot to make our primary elections as safe and healthy as possible.  

Business Survey

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, the University of Nebraska and other business-related organizations are reaching out to Nebraska businesses to better understand the initial and potential future impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the revenue and workforce of business organizations. Businesses have been asked to respond to a Business Response Survey to share what is happening to them with the COVID-19 pandemic here

The Sarpy County Chamber has also created a Business Impact Survey, available here.

Face Coverings Needed

This week the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association announced that many grocery stores are having trouble finding face coverings for their employees and are currently seeking added protection to their staff so they can stay healthy and keep serving the public. If you or someone you know are sewing face coverings, you might call your local grocery store and see if they are in need.

Governor’s Executive Orders

Child Care

Governor Ricketts has signed an executive order to allow the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to reimburse daycares even if children aren’t there because their parents are at home due to COVID-19. The executive order was issued to benefit providers that are a part of DHHS’s Child Care Subsidy Program. However, if you are a child care provider not under this program and are curious about your eligibility, you can email nicole.vint@nebraska.gov with information about your child care facility and request further information about the reimbursement program. Find the full text of the executive order here.

Restaurants

Governor Ricketts also announced a waiver that will allow restaurants to do retail sales of packaged food as a way to help with food distribution and availability across the state. This will also open up a revenue stream for struggling restaurants. I encourage you to contact your favorite restaurants to see if they are selling items. More information on that waiver for restaurant owners and retailers is available in the Governor’s press release here.

DHHS Facebook Live Update

The Department of Health and Human Services hosted another Facebook Live event this week to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting service recipients with developmental disabilities and their providers. The Division of Developmental Disabilities has submitted an Appendix K waiver to request flexibilities on certain requirements and limitations. They are awaiting approval from CMS and plan to implement those flexibilities, like being able to provide virtual services and increasing caps on respite services, as soon as possible. Kristen Larsen with the Nebraska Council on Developmental Disabilities also shared several resources, included below.

People First of Nebraska is updating their Facebook page here with general information and resources for people with disabilities, as well as serving as a space for people to share what they are up to while staying safe at home.

The Arc of Nebraska is hosting karaoke nights for people with disabilities to keep people connected during this difficult time. See their Facebook page here for information about upcoming events.

A FAQ page for providers and guardians was created by the Department and is available here with answers to COVID-related questions.

Stimulus Payments

The IRS has updated this page with instructions about how to receive the stimulus payments. No action is needed from taxpayers who filed a 2018 or 2019 federal tax return, those on Social Security, SSDI or Railroad Retirement and Survivor benefits. Those who didn’t file in 2018 or 2019 or those not on the above benefits will need to enter payment information in the application on that page titled “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here”. This webpage allows recipients to check the status of their refund and make sure bank account information is up to date.

Unemployment Updates

Last week’s numbers for unemployment claims filed were a decrease of 40 percent from the previous week’s record high. Over the past four weeks, 82,682 initial claims have been filed; there were 41,727 filed in the entire 2019 calendar year. Spreadsheets showing claims data are available here and will be updated every Thursday. 

Clarification on $600 Payments

As part of the CARES Act, existing unemployment benefits are being expanded to provide an additional $600 per week beginning the week ending April 4th. These benefits will extend through the week of July 25th. This temporary increase in benefits is referred to as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. The $600 is paid separately from regular unemployment insurance benefits, but no application is needed.

Anyone who currently has federal or state withholding tax taken out of their benefits will see the same reductions in the FPUC payment. Withholding preferences can be managed in NEworks.nebraska.gov.  Other deductions, such as child support, also apply. The additional $600 per week will also be paid to recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). 

Local Updates

Bellevue Public Schools

Graduation ceremonies for both Bellevue East and Bellevue West High Schools have been rescheduled for Saturday, August 1, 2020. BPS is working on virtual celebrations for the originally scheduled May date to recognize seniors while also complying with the Governor’s DHM and prioritizing public safety.

Bellevue Food Pantry and Mobile Pantries

The Bellevue Food Pantry’s next Drive-Up Pantry will be held on Saturday, April 25th from 10:00am – 12:00pm at Church of the Holy Spirit (1305 Thomas Drive). The Pantry is also open Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:00 am – noon and 1:00pm – 4:00pm. Clients are asked to present ID and proof of residence. Once residency has been established, clients will be directed to where they can pick up items.

As of last week, they are also accepting donations. If you are dropping off a donation, please do not go into the building as they are practicing strict social distancing procedures. Volunteers are asking that you drive up, ring the bell on the red dolly on the sidewalk and then wait in your car. Someone will then come out to assist you.

Resources

A reminder that the Sarpy County Chamber has a newly-updated resource page for businesses available here.

Mental Health America (MHA) has curated a list of mental health resources related to COVID-19, including resources for parents, caregivers, veterans and LGBTQ+ individuals.

For Students & Families

Omaha Public Library’s “Learn at Home” resources can be found at this link and include yoga, storytelling, ebooks, art and portals to other educational websites.

 GoNoodle is a fun way for kids to stay active provided to our area by Children’s Hospital & Medical Center. The Go Nebraska Kids website, powered by CHI Health, also has family-fun games, activities and ideas for staying active.

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is bringing the zoo to you with Keeper Corner, an online portal where children can check on animals every weekday at 3:00pm. The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is also offering free virtual interactive tours for Nebraska schools. Times and dates are yet to be set for these tours, but inquiries can be sent proactively to contact@lincolnzoo.org.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402) 471-2615.

All the best,

COVID Update: April 6 – 10
April 10th, 2020

Legislative Update

Congratulations to everyone for another week of staying home to protect your own health and to protect the health of those who are most vulnerable.  This week the Governor signed a proclamation to encourage all Nebraskans to buckle down for the next 21 days to stay home, stay healthy and stay connected. April is a critical month to flatten the curve here in Nebraska and I thank all of you who were helping with that effort.  As a further contribution to this effort I encourage everyone to wear a face covering when you are in a public space like the grocery store. Wearing a mask serves to protect others from possible infection if you happen to be an asymptomatic carrier. I appreciate the ways that so many have stepped up in this time to help others.  You can see some of those efforts here in this newsletter, including some resources to help keep kids learning at this time. We also post new resources as we learn about them on our website.  If you are providing a resource and would like us to help get the word out, let us know.  Thank you for all of the ways that you are helping your families, neighbors, and local businesses at this time.  A happy Public Health Week to these leaders who have been working so hard to keep Nebraskans safe and healthy. 

I wish you all a wonderful Easter and Passover.  Thank you to all of our congregations who are providing online opportunities to connect during this time.   

It’s Census Time

Now is the time to fill out your census form.  This is a critical service to your community to make sure that every person in our community is counted.  To fill out the 2020 Census, visit the Census website linked here. It will be easiest if you have your 12-digit census ID number that was printed on the form that was sent to your residence. However, if you don’t have a Census ID number but want to fill out the form online, you still can; there’s an option when logging on that reads – ‘If you do not have a Census ID, click here‘. There is no citizenship question.

Prepare Now to Vote by Mail this May

All residents of Sarpy County should have received a white postcard-sized form in the mail last month that has a ballot request. If you received this form, simply sign it, stamp it and put it in the mail. If you do not have this form, Voter Registration Applications and Early Ballot Request Forms may be found here. Ballots will be mailed out in the order requests are received, beginning on April 6. Though the Sarpy County Election Commission is closed to the public, the forms will also be available outside of their (locked) doors at 501 Olson Drive, Suite 4, in Papillion. The ballot drop box at the same address is available for people to turn in their completed forms. Forms must be signed or they will not be counted. Another way to submit your request form is to take a picture of your form and send it to earlyvote@sarpy.com. I strongly encourage you to request a vote by mail ballot to make our primary elections as safe and healthy as possible.  

State Budget Update

This week I joined my colleagues on a call with our Appropriations Chair, Senator John Stinner, to discuss the financial effects of the virus. As of now we are not sure the exact impact it will have, but he expects that it will be difficult to expect to support any new spending.  He doesn’t anticipate major cuts at this time given the health of our rainy day fund. However, he and other state and local officials have been talking with our federal delegation about the importance of allowing states and local governments to have funds to replace reduced revenues.  So far the funds that have been delegated to state governments are narrowly targeted to specific spending on corona needs. One of the big issues facing state and local governments will be the huge drop in revenues that occurs because of this crisis. Senator Stinner is currently estimating a 10% cut – a couple of other national sources of financial information for states are estimating a 15-20% loss for states.  I was on a Greater Bellevue Chamber of Commerce call on Friday morning with Congressman Bacon and he said that he recognized this need and would be working with colleagues to fix the language in the previous package or to pass new funding to help state and local governments with revenue losses.  

UNMC Update

This week one of our colleagues, Senator Wendy DeBoer, organized a joint zoom call with Dr. James Lawlor of UNMC to discuss testing and current health restrictions.  Dr. Lawlor said that he and his colleagues were working hard to improve coordination to improve testing across the state. He felt that we are at a stage now where providers should be able to order testing for a patient with COVID 19 symptoms without being limited to the earlier restrictions of just testing first responders and hospitalized patients.  [Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance are covering these tests without a copay and the federal government has promised to pay for those who are uninsured.] One of the key questions that several Senators had was whether our current restrictions are sufficient or whether we need to move to a shelter in place order. Dr. Lawlor said that we would know more this next week if our current measures are sufficient or whether we need to have more stringent restrictions.  He noted that decisions about restrictions need to recognize and balance the potential health benefits of the restrictions against the potential health harms of the restrictions. He said that there was no easy answer and noted that this was really the call of the Governor. One of his recommendations was to encourage the wearing of masks in public places. He said that Czecoslavakia had demonstrated impressive results in reducing the spread by the widespread use of masks.  

Governor’s Executive Orders & Proclamations

21 Days to Keeping Nebraska Healthy

The Governor signed a proclamation on Thursday to bring awareness to the importance of flattening the curve by encouraging everyone to stay home, stay healthy and stay connected in the next 21 days. The proclamation does not replace the directed health measures that are in place. Updates have also been issued to the DHM that will close additional businesses such as hair salons, tattoo shops, massage therapy businesses until April 30. In addition, group sports prohibited are now prohibited until May 31.

Child Abuse Awareness Month

The Governor signed a proclamation designating April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Nebraska on Tuesday. Stephanie Beasley, Director of the Division of Children and Family Services for DHHS explained that children may be at higher risk of abuse during the pandemic. In the last year, calls from educators totaled 30% of the calls reporting suspected abuse and neglect. With children not in school, fewer eyes are on our children. In Nebraska, everyone is a mandatory reporter of child abuse. If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline (800-652-1999) or Nebraska Family Helpline (888-866-8660).

Elections

On Tuesday, Governor Ricketts signed an executive order waiving the requirement of in-person voting at election offices, with the exception of voters with disabilities and certain other former federal employees. Many election offices are closed, including the Sarpy County office. Early in-person voting will not be available in Sarpy County except for those with disabilities and certain other federal employees. Those with disabilities who wish to vote early should contact the Sarpy County Elections Office at 402-593-2167 to make an appointment to vote early.

Health Information Disclosures

On Wednesday, the Governor issued an executive order allowing state and local health department officials to disclose information about those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the interest of public safety. The executive order remains in effect until 30 days after the state of emergency is lifted. DHHS will establish guidelines about when and how that information may be used and disclosed so that sharing individual health information is limited.  In his press conference, the Governor explained that this authority was also important to allow better electronic access to health records by providers across the state. 

SNAP Program Changes

The Governor made changes to Nebraska’s SNAP Program this week. These changes include extending SNAP recertification periods by six months during the months of April and May, providing emergency allotments to SNAP recipients, up to the maximum allotment per household in April and May, and extending eligibility periods for other financial assistance programs to align with the SNAP extension. For more information, see the DHHS webpage here.

DHHS 1135 Waiver Approval

On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services held a Facebook Live event to discuss what is being done to support Medicaid beneficiaries during the outbreak. DHHS was approved for the 1135 waiver last Thursday. This waiver relaxes prior authorization requirements, relaxes time frames around long term care screening and allows modifications for the state’s emergency response plan while providing for other flexibilities during the state of emergency. The Department is working with managed care organizations and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to implement the provisions that are outlined in the waiver. For more information about DHHS and the kinds of work they are doing during the  events here on Wednesdays at noon.

Local Updates

Sarpy Directed Health Measure

Sarpy County has issued its own directed health measure. The measure includes the same orders that were made in the statewide DHM by the Governor several weeks ago, including that gatherings of 10 people or more are prohibited, restaurants must close their dining areas and use delivery or drive-through for sales, and elective surgeries are prohibited. There is also guidance within the DHM about childcare facilities. See the full language of the DHM here.

Bellevue Library Extends Closure

Due to ongoing health safety concerns, the Bellevue Public Library will extend its closure to the public through April 30 when the situation will again be evaluated. The closure extension is in line with the DHM.

Assisted Living and Nursing Facilities Hiring

The Nebraska Health Care Association is seeking temporary nurse aides, medication aides or dining assistants in long-term care facilities. To find an assisted living or nursing facility with open positions, visit nehca.org or call 402-435-3551.

Unemployment Updates

The Department of Labor announced unemployment insurance updates this week including the extension of waivers for coronavirus to August 1. Additionally, workers participating in Short-Time Compensation (STC) plans will be eligible for $600 per week in federal benefits under the CARES Act, in addition to their partial unemployment benefits through STC. For more information about the STC plan, visit this link. In Nebraska, the Commissioner of Labor announced on Thursday that the Department has doubled their staff in an effort to process claims as quickly as possible. They are working to add more staff in the next couple of weeks. Though the amount of claims filed did not increase drastically from last week to this week, they still have many to process. Over the past three weeks, 66,741 initial claims have been filed; there were 41,727 filed in the entire 2019 calendar year. Those who have filed a claim can expect an unemployment check in 21 to 28 days.

Small Business Updates

160 Nebraska banks are working to process applications for the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protections Program, the program specifically designed to help businesses keep their employees on payroll. As of midweek, more than 7,837 applications had been submitted for $1.47 billion dollars for companies here in the state.

The Nebraska Chamber has released an updated list of tools for businesses. This includes the Chamber’s Coronavirus Toolkit, a video posted to the Chamber’s YouTube page detailing the lending process and tips for pursuing these options and a guide comparing COVID-19 loans and forgiveness. The Chamber continues to emphasize the importance of reaching out to your lender, accountant and attorney as these are the people best situated to help you examine your options. The Nebraska Business Development Center provides consulting services to businesses that includes how to navigate the options available to small businesses at this time.  

CARES Act Update for Faith Based Organizations 

This week the SBA issued guidance clarifying that all faith-based organizations impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19) are eligible to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, without restrictions based on their religious identity or activities, given that they meet the eligibility criteria. More information about the new guidance is available here.

Resources

The Bellevue Food Pantry will now be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00am – 12:00pm and 1:00pm – 4:00pm. Individuals must provide a photo ID and proof of residence as a piece of printed mail such as a utility bill received within the past 30 days.

The Kim Foundation is maintaining a page specifically for COVID-19 mental health resources which includes a list of telehealth providers. The page is linked here, with the list of telehealth providers on the bottom left of the page.

The Nebraska Children and Families Foundation website has information about utility disconnection, food security, housing and more.

The American Diabetes Association is providing support and guidance to those 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 the community at diabetes.org/coronavirus.If you are struggling to pay for insulin, the ADA has resources to help at InsulinHelp.org

Resources are available for those impacted by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease during the COVID crisis. Online resources on the website, virtual community programs, telephone support groups, caregiver tips and a 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900) are all available.

3 News Now continues to update this article frequently with Omaha, Papillion and Bellevue area closures.

For Parents and Students

Nebraska Extension has added three new remote access programs for children — Living Room Learning, Boredom Buster Challenge and Beautiful Day. Living Room Learning activities are for students in 3rd – 5th grades, while the Boredom Buster Challenge is fit for 6th to 9th graders. The Beautiful Day program is fit for students of any age with an interest in art. Nebraska Extension teams will continue to develop additional programming and are doing their best to reach all age groups.

Beyond School Bells, a program through Nebraska Children, encourages students to visit their website which now features virtual “backpacks”. These virtual backpacks contain materials that provide parents and students with engaging, hands-on activities that they can do with little or no supplies and with or without an internet connection.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402) 471-2615.

All the best,

Legislative Update

The Legislature remains in recess. I am working from home as many of you are.  I thank you for all that you are doing to keep people safe and well during this crisis.  My staff is still hard at work on your behalf. Although they are working from home, they still have access to our phone calls and emails.  If you have any questions or concerns be sure to contact us by email (scrawford@leg.ne.gov) or by phone (402-471-2615).  Hanna has been analyzing the new federal programs to help us know how they impact Nebraska and our constituents. Lillian has done a great job of keeping track of new resources and posting links to new resources on our Facebook page. She accumulates these new resources once a week for these weekly updates.  These updates get posted on our legislative website, so you can go back and reference any of our previous updates there.  We have also created a resource page at the top of our website that contains an overview of key resources.  If you have resources that we should post, feel free to contact our office.

Governor’s Executive Orders

Occupational Licensure

The Governor issued an executive order that temporarily waives many of Nebraska’s health profession licensure statutes and regulations to allow medical professionals that are new, inactive or from out of state to be able to practice in Nebraska. The full order can be found here.

Turkey Hunting Permits

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is suspending the sale of nonresident spring turkey hunting permits in an effort to prevent the potential for the spread of coronavirus. This helps protect the health of Nebraskans by discouraging unnecessary travel.

Social Distancing Restrictions Extended

The Governor also extended statewide social distancing restrictions through April 30. The previously announced restrictions, which have now been extended, can be found here. In accordance with these restrictions, all schools in Nebraska will be operating without students through the rest of this school year. Extra-curricular activities for the spring season have been cancelled as well.

Small Business Updates

The SBA has updated its page with information about Economic Injury Disaster Loans, the Paycheck Protection Program and the Employee Tax Retention Credit here.

Grants

In response to the pandemic, small business owners are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000. Funds will be made available within three days of a successful application and this loan advance will not have to be repaid. An overview of the loan advance and information about eligibility is available here.

Paycheck Protection Program

The CARES Act is encouraging banks and credit unions to make small business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). These loan applications can be approved and funded the same day. Under this program, loans may be forgiven in an amount equal to the borrower’s payroll, rent, utility and other expenses incurred in the eight-week period after origination. Applicants will apply through a lender, not through the SBA. Employers searching for an approved lender can do so on the SBA website. Loans must be made by June 30th of this year. More information is available here.

Employee Retention Tax Credit

Tuesday marked the launch of the Employee Retention Tax Credit program, designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on their payroll. The refundable tax credit is 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19. The IRS has published guidance on their webpage here, where you can find answers to questions about eligibility, how credits are calculated, which wages qualify and how to receive credits.

Unemployment Insurance Information

The Department of Labor announced on Thursday that an unprecedented number of claims have been filed in the past two weeks, with the number nearly equating the total for the entire 2019 calendar year. The Commissioner assured people that they are processing applications as quickly as they can and expect to send out payments in three to four weeks.

The DOL is still awaiting federal guidance on the software they are using to process applications from self-employed individuals and independent contractors. Though it may take 7-10 days to receive that guidance and get the software up and running, you can still file a claim now and are encouraged to do so. Be sure to mark “COVID-19 shutdown/layoff” when you apply, and your application will be processed even if it appears that you are denied. 

My office has received calls about the process of filing a claim and issues reaching the Department of Labor by phone. Due to a high call volume, the Department is encouraging people to use the website whenever possible and to leave a callback number if you must speak to someone over the phone. 

Federal Updates

Guidelines Extended for 30 Days

President Trump has extended the federal coronavirus guidelines until the end of April. These guidelines include avoiding discretionary travel and social gatherings, following CDC guidelines to protect your health at work if you are an essential employee and using drive-through or delivery options when ordering from restaurants. For more information, visit this link.

Stimulus Checks

The distribution of stimulus checks of $1,200 (plus an additional $500 for each dependent under 17) will begin in the next two weeks and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. More details about eligibility and payments are available here.

The Treasury has issued new guidance stating that Social Security recipients will automatically receive economic impact stimulus checks, no action required. More information about social security recipients is available here.

Local Updates

The Food Bank for the Heartland has updated its list of mobile food pantries. They are partnering with Bellevue Public Schools to host a drive-up pantry on April 15th at Mission Middle School (2202 Washington St). Their website (linked here) has additional information about their mobile pantries and other services they can provide.

New Resources

Nebraska Impact has established their COVID-19 Relief Fund. Their website also has information about volunteering opportunities, blood banks, and educational resources. Donations will go toward communities and helping statewide community collaboratives and are accepted here.

Bellevue Fire Crews will provide a drive-by with lights and sirens for kid’s birthday parties. To request a visit, email ems.captain@bellevue.net at least one day in advance. 

Teachers are now delivering lessons for four hours a day to students stuck at home. The programming is available on cable TV (Cox Channel 1116, News Channel Nebraska). Lessons can also be streamed anytime here or in Spanish here.

Another resource for educators, families and students is the LearnEverywhere Facebook group. This online community is a place to share ideas and projects for young learners. To join the group, click here.

Consumers who feel they have been the victim of coronavirus related fraud or scams may file a consumer complaint through the attorney general’s website or send an email to ago.consumer@nebraska.gov.

The Bellevue Chamber of Commerce website has added a new step-by-step guide to help small businesses access aid. To see the guide, visit https://www.bellevuenebraska.com and look for “US Chamber Small Business Loan Guide” on the right hand side of the page.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402) 471-2615.

All the best,

This resource page shares information and resources regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. My office will update this page with new information as it becomes available.

COVID-19 General Information

Visit the UNMC webpage and the DHHS website for the most updated information about COVID-19 in our state. The Sarpy/Cass Health Department is also maintaining their webpage, linked here, with local information and resources.

For local disaster recovery resources and information for those who were also impacted by the flood, visit Sarpy Disaster Recovery here.

For federal updates, visit the following websites:

CDC website – for official health information

Spanish Language resource page with CDC guidelines

USA.gov – for information about the government’s response

FEMA – for information about rumors and myths surrounding the virus

World Health Organization website – for public advice and technical guidance

Important Information for Small Businesses

Small Business Administration Loans: Small business guidance and loan resources are available at the SBA website. The loans and programs include, but are not limited to, the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) and SBA Express Bridge Loans. Follow this link to the SBA coronavirus page for more information.

Small Business Debt Relief Program: This program covers principal, interest and fee payments on current non-disaster SBA loans for six months as well as all payments on new loans taken out within the next six months.

Employee Tax Retention Credits: These tax credits are available to any employer that is not receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans and is either fully or partially suspended due to a governmental order related to coronavirus OR experiences a reduction of at least 50% in gross receipts from the same quarter in 2019. These credits cover up to 50% of wages paid by eligible employers during the crisis through December 2020.

Grants: The recently passed CARES Act provides for emergency grants for small businesses with less than 500 employees of up to $10,000. These are considered economic injury disaster loans but do not need to be paid back.The $10,000 may be used to maintain payroll, cover paid sick leave and service other debt obligations. This also applies to sole proprietors, those without employees and independent contractors. Information about these grants is available at the SBA website as well.

Helpful Websites: The Sarpy Chamber, Bellevue Chamber, and Greater Omaha Chamber are updating their websites regularly with relevant information, news and resources for business owners. The National Council of Nonprofits has also published helpful information on their website about the CARES Act.

The Department of Economic Development website is partnering with the Governor to keep businesses informed about the pandemic and assist them when possible. Their website is frequently being updated with available information and resources.

[Updated 4/10/20] The Nebraska Business Development Center has published a webpage with business resiliency resources here.

Important Information for Individuals

Federal Aid: The distribution of stimulus checks of $1,200 (plus an additional $500 for each dependent under 17) will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. Please note that some seniors or others who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the stimulus payment. More details about eligibility and payments are available at this link.

Unemployment: Claims can be filed at NEworks.nebraska.gov or on the free NEworks app. Work requirements and the one week long waiting period has been waived. Unemployment benefits will be available for the self-employed and gig workers who usually don’t qualify.  The webpage linked here has detailed information about how to file claims and information about special programs. Note that the Department of Labor is experiencing high call volumes due to the influx in applications. For this reason, it is encouraged that you call and leave a callback number or that you utilize the online resources.

[Update 4/8/20] The DOL is still awaiting federal guidance on the software they are using to process applications from self-employed individuals and independent contractors. Though it may take 7-10 days to receive that guidance and get the software up and running, you can still file a claim now and are encouraged to do so. Be sure to mark “COVID-19 shutdown/layoff” when you apply, and your application will be processed even if it appears that you are denied.

Taxes: The Federal and State Income Tax Day has moved from April 15th to July 15th. This provides individuals and businesses with additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties for federal or state taxes. Governor Ricketts’ announcement about the tax filing deadline can be found here.

Housing: Governor Ricketts issued an executive order to waive the strict legal timeline for evictions that is currently in law. The order allows courts to stall or halt evictions for renters unable to pay rent due on or after March 13th because of economic hardship related to the pandemic. The executive order does not cancel rent payments, but it does defer a landlord’s right to a trial in an eviction action for non-payment of rent until May 31st when the nonpayment of rent is due to the Corona virus.

Child Care: Contact your child care provider for information about their plans. The Department of Health and Human Services has recently issued new guidance for providers. Lastly, if you still need to work but need care for your child you may be eligible for child care assistance. Contact DHHS at 402-595-1258 for help determining your eligibility.

Fraud/Scams: If you think you are the victim of a coronavirus fraud or scam, file a consumer complaint through the Nebraska attorney general’s website or send an email to ago.consumer@nebraska.gov. You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Information is available on their website here.

Local Resources

The Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office has established a helpline for the sick, elderly or caretakers who need assistance picking up prescriptions, groceries or other necessities.The number to call is 402-593-1593. Requests can be made Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Requests received after 4 p.m. will be addressed the following business day.

Heartland Workforce Solutions may be able to assist youth 14-24 with job applications,  questions about student loans, housing and other community supports. See their website for more information.

The Bellevue Housing Authority (BHA) has a special change form for families that have lost employment. For more information about these forms or how to complete them, contact Monica at monica@sarpyhousing.org or by phone at 402-502-8778.

Bellevue Fire Crews will provide a drive-by with lights and sirens for children’s birthday parties. To request a visit, email ems.captain@bellevue.net at least one day in advance. 

Teachers are now delivering lessons to students stuck at home. The programming is available on cable TV (Cox Channel 1116, News Channel Nebraska) or can be streamed online at any time in English here or in Spanish here.

A list of online Sarpy County services are available here including an online portal so you can pay your property taxes and access to DMV services.

See the Food Bank for the Heartland website for information about upcoming mobile pantries. 

[Updated 4/7/20] The Bellevue Food Pantry will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-noon and 1-4PM. Individuals must provide a photo ID and proof of residence as a piece of printed mail (like a utility bill) received within the past 30 days.

The Kim Foundation website is maintaining a page specifically for COVID-19 mental health resources which includes a list of telehealth providers.

The Nebraska Children and Families Foundation website has information about utility disconnection, food security, housing and more.

General Resources

[Updated 4/29/20] A Better Balance has published an FAQ page about COVID-19, pregnancy and workplace rights here. They also have a general FAQ page about paid leave. Another resource through their organization is a toll-free number where people can call for information on federal paid leave policies. That phone number is  1-833-633-3222.

Legal Assistance

Nebraska Free Legal Answers (NFLA) is providing legal assistance to those impacted by COVID-19. Please see their website here to see if you are eligible for their services. You must be a Nebraska resident, at least 18 years of age and meet low-income eligibility requirements.

Legal Aid of Nebraska may also be able to provide assistance dependent on your situation and what resources are available. Their website has more in depth information about how their offices can help here.

Information Hotlines

The DHHS COVID-19 information line is available 8:00am – 8:00pm, 7 days a week, at 402-552-6645. If you have questions about Nebraska cases, how to protect yourself or others, or Nebraska’s response to the virus please give them a call. 

If you have questions about resources or services, call the United Way’s 2-1-1 Resource Hotline.

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects callers to trained crisis counselors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

Press Conferences

The White House Coronavirus Task Force streams their press conferences about the federal response here daily. Governor Ricketts is hosting press conferences daily at 2:00pm about the state’s response to the coronavirus here.The City of Bellevue is posting press conferences and updates occasionally on their YouTube channel here.

All the best,

Legislative Update

This week we convened for a three-day stint to pass the emergency funding bill, LB 1198. The package provides $83.6 million dollars that will go toward necessities needed in light of the COVID outbreak including personal protective equipment, increased staffing in the state public health division and equipment to be used at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. On Monday, we advanced the emergency package unanimously. On Tuesday, around half of the body convened for a check-in day. On Wednesday we convened once more for Final Reading and the bill passed with strong bipartisan support. Now that the emergency appropriation has passed, we are adjourned until the Speaker calls. Updates about the legislative session going forward will be published to the Home Page of the Legislature’s website, linked here.

Governor’s Executive Orders

Since we are in a declared emergency, emergency powers for the Governor now apply.  The Governor has made several policy exceptions and changes related to the COVID emergency.  

Evictions

Governor Ricketts issued an executive order to prevent the strict legal timeline for evictions that is currently in law.  The order allows courts to stall or halt evictions for renters unable to pay rent due on or after March 13th because of economic hardship related to the pandemic. It is important to note that the executive order does not cancel rent payments, but it does defer a landlord’s right to a trial in an eviction action for non-payment of rent until May 31st. Full text of this executive order can be found here.

Temporary Daycares

Another executive order issued this week eases the licensing requirements to open and operate temporary, non-residential child care in an alternative setting like a nonprofit or faith-based organization. The executive order is effective immediately and will remain in place until 30 days after the State lifts the state of emergency due to the pandemic. The executive order can be viewed by clicking here.

Mixed Drinks for Takeout

With restaurants and bars being some of the hardest hit businesses in our state during the pandemic, Governor Ricketts issued a new executive order on Thursday allowing businesses to sell mixed drinks with lids for takeout. If you are a business owner and have questions about what can be sold for takeout during this time, the full text of the executive order is available here

Information for Small Businesses

Additional SBA Disaster Loan Information

The recent disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in the entire state of Nebraska. Small businesses, non-profit organizations of any size and small agricultural cooperatives that have been financially impacted as a direct result of COVID-19 since January 31, 2020 may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses. Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. The deadline to apply is December 21st. 2020.  In an effort to encourage businesses to retain workers, the loans have a provision that allows loans to be forgiven if businesses retain their employees.

Grants Available for Small Businesses

The CARES Act provides for emergency grants for small businesses (<500 employees) of up to $10,000. These are considered economic injury disaster loans but do not need to be paid back. Small businesses may apply to the Small Business Administration to receive a grant of up to $10,000. The money can be used to maintain payroll, cover paid sick leave and service other debt obligations. The grant also applies to sole proprietors, those without employees and independent contractors. There is not yet information on the SBA website about grants, but we expect it to be available next week and will post an update to our Facebook page when we have that information.

Additional Unemployment Insurance Information

The Department of Labor’s website and unemployment applications have been updated with the waived work requirements. If you applied for unemployment prior to this week and were denied because of work requirements or did not complete your application after seeing the work requirements, please revisit the site now as it is now up and running with those requirements waived. If you have already submitted the application in its entirety your denial will be processed again, changes will be made administratively, and you will be accepted. 

Unemployment claims are filed online at NEworks.nebraska.gov, or on the NEworks mobile app which is free to download.

Federal Updates

Following the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by Congress last week,  Paid Sick and Family Leave tax credits are now available to covered employers. For more information about how businesses can access tax credits for the new paid sick leave, see the post linked here.

Since last week’s update, more specific information about the exemption for small businesses from the requirements of the new paid leave law have been released.  The IRS has said that small businesses with less than 50 employees can apply for an exemption from the paid leave requirements only for paid leave for parents providing childcare due to school closings or child care unavailability. The US Dept of Labor has published an Explanation of Benefits under the new law for employees and for employers.

Employee Tax Retention Credit

The new coronavirus relief package creates an employee retention tax credit to businesses impacted by COVID19.  It provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by employers to employees during the COVID-19 crisis. The credit is available to employers whose operations were fully or partially suspended due to a COVID-19-related shutdown order or whose gross receipts declined by more than 50% compared to the same quarter in the prior year. The credit is based on qualified wages paid to full-time employees. More information will be forthcoming on this topic in the coming days. Please keep an eye out for new information on our Facebook, Twitter and in upcoming updates.

State and Local Updates

May 12 Primary

Secretary of State Robert Evnen announced on Thursday that the May 12th primary election will go forward as planned. People are encouraged to fill out an early voting ballot request form which will be mailed to voters or make a request online at this link. Applications are due May 1st. For those that plan to vote in person, polling sites will be taking extra precautions to keep voters safe and prevent the spread of illness.

Nebraska Medicine – Bellevue Visitors

Nebraska Medicine – Bellevue announced that visitors will be allowed only in special circumstances on a case-by-case basis effective March 27. There are exceptions for pediatric and labor and delivery patients. This also includes Nebraska Medicine’s clinics. Patients will still be screened and staff will escort patients. If a patient arrives with a guest the guest will be asked to return to the vehicle.

Nebraska High School Sports Cancelled

Due to the coronavirus outbreak and school closures, the Nebraska School Activities Association announced Wednesday that it will be extending the suspension of all high school athletic and activity practices and competitions through May 1.

Resources

The Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office has established a helpline for the sick, elderly or caretakers who need assistance picking up prescriptions, groceries or other necessities.The number to call is 402-593-1593. Requests can be made Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Requests received after 4 p.m. will be addressed the following business day.

Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has resulted in numerous scams. The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) 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. Please follow this link for more information on financial security during this time.

Heartland Workforce Solutions may be able to assist youth 14-24 with job applications,  questions about student loans, housing and other community supports.

The Bellevue Housing Authority (BHA) has a special change form for families that have lost employment. For more information about these forms or how to complete them, contact Monica at monica@sarpyhousing.org or by phone at 402-502-8778.

The Department of Economic Development website is partnering with the Governor to keep businesses informed about the pandemic and assist them when possible. Their website is frequently being updated with available information and resources.

Federal Resources

Coronavirus.gov continues to be a great source of information for questions about symptoms, how to prepare and protect yourself, how to social distance and the federal response to the virus. If you scroll to the bottom of their page, there is also guidance for small businesses.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development website contains information for homeless service providers, property owners and housing stakeholders. 

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) allows U.S. citizens who are currently abroad or traveling to receive alerts and travel advisories.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is maintaining a list of resources on their website for providers and communities, including Opioid Treatment Programs and Behavioral Health Treatment Programs.

The National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) is working with the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division to detect, prevent and investigate criminal conduct or fraud related to the COVID-19 emergency. Complaints can be shared with their hotline staff at 1-866-720-5721 or e-mail at disaster@leo.gov.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402) 471-2615.

All the best,

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45
Room #1012
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2615
Email: scrawford@leg.ne.gov
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