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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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I strongly encourage you to request a vote by mail ballot to make our primary elections as safe and healthy as possible.
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
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 email@example.com with information about your child care facility and request further information about the reimbursement program. Find the full text of the executive order here.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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All the best,