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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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All the best,