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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.
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 email@example.com. 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.
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).
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All the best,