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

We are now just 7 session days away from reaching Day 60, the last day of this short session. On Friday we had a full morning of voting bills on final reading, which is the last round of voting.  All of the bills that pass become state law.  We had 50 bills on final reading on Friday.  The first set of bills were the budget bills, which all passed.  Several other bills that we passed on Friday make notable changes in state law.  I highlight just a few of these bills to illustrate the work of the legislature despite the pandemic. 

LB 43 is Senator Bolz’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, which guarantees rights for survivors of sexual assault during medical care, in interactions with law enforcement and prosecutors, throughout the processing of evidence and in court proceedings. The bill also ensures that survivors are aware of their right to an advocate, a free medical exam and to be informed about the legal process.

LB 760 was on our list of bills responding to the pandemic. Senator Kolterman’s bill provides that dermatology services conducted through telemedicine must be covered by a patient’s individual health insurance. This means that beginning January 2021, asynchronous review that is deemed medically necessary can’t be excluded from a health insurance policy solely because it is delivered in that manner.

LB 780 is Senator Stinner’s bill to change the budgeting process of the Nebraska Arts Council and authorize creative districts. Senator Hunt’s amendment to the bill added provisions of her LB 943, which requires the Nebraska Arts Council to devise a plan for creative districts throughout the state. This provides a path for this innovative way to encourage arts-based economic development in Nebraska.

A set of bills – LB 1140, 1144, 1188, 1148 – make needed reforms to our Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center programs in the state. This includes provisions to require a careful plan before youth services are moved from one facility to another. I appreciate the hard work of the HHS committee to build a bipartisan package to strengthen these programs and protect our youth and communities.

LB 924e was included in a list of bills that responded to racial justice issues in my newsletter two weeks ago. Senator Chambers’ bill strengthens enforcement of the state’s ban on racial profiling by law enforcement. It requires each law enforcement agency in Nebraska to implement an anti-bias and implicit bias training policy to combat apparent or actual racial profiling practices. 

Business and Labor Hearing Next Week

Senator Tony Vargas introduced a motion on Wednesday to suspend the rules and introduce a bill about protections for meat packing plant workers. The motion received 28 votes but needed 30 to pass. Next week, the Business and Labor Committee will have a hearing on AM 3238, an amendment that Senator Vargas introduced to LB 667 with the same provisions. The hearing will be on Thursday, August 6th at 1:30pm in Room 1525. Letters for the record can be submitted to mhansen@leg.ne.gov prior to 5:00pm the day before the hearing.

LB 1053 and LB 323 Advance

LB 1053 is an HHS committee bill which contained my LB 833, a bill that exempts Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE Programs, from state licensure requirements. LB 1053 advanced to Select File on Tuesday.

LB 323 is a bill I introduced last year to make it easier for people with disabilities to work and make more money while still having access to Medicaid benefits. The bill was returned to Select File on Wednesday so an amendment could be adopted that pushes out the implementation date and General Fund impact. LBs 323 and 323A are now on Final Reading.

Heritage Health Medicaid Expansion Program

Beginning on August 1, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services will begin accepting applications from Nebraskans who will be eligible for the Heritage Health Adult Medicaid expansion program. Eligible adults are Nebraska residents ages 19-64 who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level (about $17,000 per individual). In the past, lower income adults eligible for Medicaid either had to have children or special medical needs. Expanded Medicaid will launch at the beginning of October 2020.

Individuals can apply online, by phone at 855-632-7633 or at their local DHHS office.

LB 1222 Hearing

After the body adjourned on Friday, I joined my colleagues on the Urban Affairs committee for the hearing on LB 1222. LB 1222 is Senator Justin Wayne’s bill to adopt the Municipal Police Oversight Act. Since the bill’s introduction I have had conversations with the Bellevue Police Department and the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office to hear their concerns and hear about their oversight processes in place. I have received many emails from citizens, advocacy groups and cities. One of the concerns raised by groups that represent crime victims was whether a victim’s identity could be protected.

Paid Leave Interim Study Resolution

This week I introduced an interim study to research the impact of paid sick leave policies on pandemic spread in several different states and industries. LR 391 is supplemental to work I will already be doing at Creighton on this topic. With the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 looming, it is critical that we are aware of the paid leave policies that we can put in place to support Nebraskans and their families.

General Election Vote By Mail

Sarpy County Election Commission will be mailing early mail-in ballot request forms to registered voters in late September. For those that live outside Nebraska’s three largest counties (Sarpy, Douglas or Lancaster), you may need to request an early mail-in ballot. If you are not sure if you are registered to vote, you can check your status here and register here. The Sarpy County Election Commission has additional information on their website, including the early ballot request form.

Believe in Bellevue Giving Day

August 4th is the first annual Believe in Bellevue online fundraising event. Similar to Omaha Gives!, Believe in Bellevue is a way to raise support and awareness for community nonprofits. Visit the website to see more information about local nonprofits and to donate. Thank you to the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, Bellevue Community Foundation and Bellevue Public Schools Foundation for putting this event together.

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building. We have safety measures in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
  • 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 watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402) 471-2615.

All the best,

Back in Session

We returned to the Capitol this week to wrap up our last 17 days of legislative business and my final session days in office. Senators are eager to make the most of our limited time over the next few weeks.  For me it will be my last few days in session for my career.  

Although logjams in the property tax proposal dominate much of the news, it is important that you know that there are still many of us working behind the scenes to continue to push for a compromise to move forward on the issue in a way that is fiscally responsible and committed to high quality education for our students across the state.  Also, on the floor everyday we are passing many bills to improve the lives of Nebraskans with unanimous support.  Those bills don’t make headlines, but I want you to know that most of what we do is collaborative and tackles everyday issues that Nebraskans face. 

Our office is continuing to assist people who are struggling to receive unemployment benefits or file a claim. My staff is available at 402-471-2615 to answer questions about the reinstated work search requirements, claiming benefits when you are on reduced hours or any other concerns you may have.

LB 870, LB 1061, LB 632 Advance

Early this week two of my bills passed on Final Reading and another bill of mine advanced as part of the Natural Resources priority package.

 LB 870 introduced by me and prioritized by Senator Rob Clements would allow cities and municipalities to borrow directly from banks in the event of a natural disaster. LB 870 is an important bill to pass this session in the case that Nebraskans experience flooding like that of last year in the future.

LB 1061 makes a number of changes to Nebraska’s Child Protection and Family Safety Act. Thank you to the child welfare advocates that testified in support of this bill that will protect parents, children and caregivers.

My LB 933 was amended into the Natural Resources priority package, LB 632, before the session was indefinitely postponed in mid-March. The package passed the General File round of debate on Wednesday. My portion of this bill would prevent customers with medical needs from being disconnected from utilities on which they depend.

Nebraska Legislators Press Conference

On Monday I hosted a press conference to discuss key legislation we will be focusing on over the next few weeks and the economic impact of COVID-19. I appreciate Senators McCollister, Cavanaugh, Blood, Hansen, Vargas, Hunt, Wishart, Morfeld, DeBoer and Howard for their dedication to helping Nebraskans through the pandemic.

The full press conference can be accessed by clicking this link.

Police Oversight Bill Introduced

On Thursday the body debated a motion by Senator Wayne to suspend the rules and introduce a new bill. Without a suspension of the rules, bills can only be introduced in the first 10 days of session. The motion passed with 32 votes and Senator Wayne introduced LB 1222, a bill about police citizen oversight boards. Under the bill, members of the Citizen Police Oversight Board would be selected by the Mayor and City Council of the municipality to monitor police standards and practices.

Nebraska’s Economic Forecast

On Thursday the OpenSky Policy Institute held a webinar about Nebraska’s current fiscal picture and our expectations going forward. The Revenue Committee then met that evening for a briefing of the Nebraska Economic Forecast. The changes in the original forecast for fiscal year 2020-2021 include the shift in income taxes due to the filing deadline shift, economic conditions and revenue losses due to the provisions of the CARES Act. The forecast was more optimistic than most expected it to be.  It opens the door for resources to be spent if necessary this year.  However, as Senator Stinner, the Chair of Appropriations, has stated, we want to be very cautious and supplement our rainy day fund to weather possible rough waters ahead.

Page Applications Open

The Clerk’s Office sent out a reminder this week that page applications and letters of recommendation for the 2021 legislative session will be accepted no later than Friday, October 2nd at 5:00pm. Pages are college students who assist senators and the Clerk of the Legislature with various tasks. It is a paid part-time position, and many students receive college internship credit for their work. The page selection committee will meet in October to select the individuals that will fill the available positions. The online application can be found here.

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building. We have safety measures in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
  • 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 watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402) 471-2615.

All the best,

Session Resumes

For the past several months, my staff and I have been working mostly from home. This upcoming Monday we return to the capitol to complete the last 17 days of session.  Much has changed since we left in March.  Many of our neighbors suffer from the economic impacts of the pandemic, the pandemic makes the need for electronic means to justice clear, and we have been reminded of the need to actively fight for racial justice.  Since we are past the first 10 days of session, it is not possible to introduce new bills to address these issues.  However, several bills that are already in the works will move our state forward on these fronts.  I discuss several of the bills that tackle racial justice below.  We also have bills in process with priorities that open up access to the courts through electronic means such as Senator Lathrop’s LB 1028 that allows small claims court actions to be filed electronically and Senator Brandt’s LB 912 that broadens provisions for remote testifying in civil cases.  I look forward to working on these bills and more during my last 17 days of session.   

The legislative calendar for the remaining days can be found here and Monday’s agenda can be found here.

Office Procedure

In an effort to keep Capitol visitors and staff safe and healthy, changes are being made to our usual Chamber procedures. Several of these changes include temperatures being taken as we enter, a cleaning crew sanitizing our work areas each evening after we adjourn and limiting staff allowed on the floor.

My office will also have new safety procedures in place. We are requiring visitors to wear masks in the office and limiting traffic to three visitors at a time to allow for social distancing. The easiest way to schedule a meeting or get in touch with me or my office during this time is by phone or email. Please call 402-471-2615 or email me at scrawford@leg.ne.gov.

P-EBT Application Deadline

This Sunday, July 19th, is the last day to apply for Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT). This program provides additional assistance to families of children who are eligible for free or reduced meals and have been impacted by schools closing. Only families and children who were eligible for free or reduced meals at their school for the 2019-2020 school year are eligible. Families who are already participating in SNAP do not need to apply and will have their benefits automatically placed on their EBT card. Families who are not currently participating in SNAP but have been deemed eligible by their school will need to complete the online application linked here. Families who do not have internet access can call the ACCESSNebraska hotline at 800-383-4278 to apply.

Racial Justice Bills on Select and Final Reading

As we return to session, I look forward to having serious discussions with my colleagues about the very pressing issues of racial injustice, systemic racism and police brutality.  While these issues are not new, I am hopeful that the renewed sense of urgency inspired by recent events will be a catalyst for real and lasting change in the direction of racial justice.  I have been continuing to educate myself on these issues and am committed to continuing to learn about how I may contribute to dismantling systems of oppression. It is my hope that my colleagues and I will hear the cries of communities of color and act in ways that will advance equity not just in this moment but in the long term.  

My office compiled an analysis of the widely circulated “8 Can’t Wait” campaign, a set of policy strategies proven to reduce police violence, and an analysis of how these policies might fit into Nebraska state law.  We circulated this analysis to members of the Judiciary committee and I am hopeful that some measures to that effect will be introduced next year.  Since I am termed out after this session, I am unable to introduce any new legislation.  

However, several important bills that address racial justice currently sit on select or final reading. The good news for all of these bills is that they have already passed the first round of voting, so they are on their way to becoming law.  I look forward to continuing to support these measures and to push for their passage into law in Nebraska.

LB 924 (Chambers) Last year, the ACLU of Nebraska released a report that revealed racial biases in traffic stops in Nebraska.  Following this report, my staff researched this issue and I discussed the results of the report with the Bellevue Police.  Senator Chambers ended up introducing legislation on this subject. LB 924 requires that all law enforcement agencies in the state conduct regular anti-bias training for officers and adopt policies preventing traffic stops based on racial profiling. It is on Final Reading and has strong bipartisan support. I hope to see it pass and I am grateful for Senator Chambers’ decades of service as the leading legislative voice on racial justice issues.  

LB 254 (McCollister) – LB 254 would help enable job seekers who were formerly incarcerated to get a job interview if they are qualified.  It would require any employer who asks applicants to disclose their criminal record on a job application to provide the applicant with an opportunity to explain their criminal history, the circumstances surrounding any convictions, and any progress they have made in rehabilitation since the incident(s).  By giving applicants a chance to explain, the employer will get a more fair and balanced picture of the applicant’s past and what they have done to improve themselves following a conviction.  This bill would advance racial justice by providing more employment opportunities to people of color, who are disproportionately incarcerated.  In NE, Black inmates make up 27% of the prison system, while Black citizens make up only 4.6% of the population. 

LB 219 (Wishart) – LB 219 would contribute to racial justice by providing that children in foster care need not meet any more requirements in applying for a driver’s license than children who are not involved in the system.  Children of color are disproportionately represented in the Nebraska foster care system, and a driver’s license is an essential component of enabling independence for foster children, allowing them to drive to school, activities, or a job.  

LB 515 (Vargas) – LB 515 would enact a number of changes in the Student Discipline act designed to keep at-risk students connected to their school and engaged in their education when charged with disciplinary violations, including suspensions.  It would provide consistency and a more equitable process in student discipline hearings, which would help prevent students from being funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline.  Black and Latinx students are consistently punished more severely than white students for the same violations, and are far more likely to be referred to law enforcement or arrested for school-based offenses than white students.  

LB 918 (Wayne) – This bill would create a commission made up of African American Nebraskans to identify actions that could enhance the rights of Black Nebraskans and to develop possible solutions.  The Commission would promote legislation beneficial to the Black community, work with the Governor and other government agencies to keep them apprised of challenges in the Black community, and coordinate programs to address issues faced by Black Nebraskans.  Black people, historically and at present, have not been well represented in our state government.  This would create an official seat at the table for Black leaders in Nebraska government.  

LB 1061 (Crawford) – This is my priority bill for this year.  LB 1061 authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to continue using an alternative response approach within the child welfare system.  I passed a bill several years ago to authorize alternative response as a pilot program.  Since then, the program has demonstrated positive outcomes for children and families.  It is an alternative to traditional response, which involves Child Protective Services, law enforcement, and court involvement.  Under alternative response, children that are deemed safe to do so may stay with their family while the family receives social work services.  Keeping families together following reports of abuse and neglect, when determined safe, has been shown to reduce long-lasting trauma to children that is usually associated with out-of-home placement.

LB 1061 also establishes safety guidelines and clearer protections for children, families, and caregivers involved in non-court child welfare cases.  This bill has a potential racial justice impact, given that children and families of color are overrepresented in our child welfare system, and that Black children are disproportionately removed from the home following reports of abuse.  Once involved in the child welfare system, children of color are more likely to spend longer periods of time in out-of-home placement, be separated from siblings, and receive multiple placements– all of which exacerbate trauma.  Families of color face additional challenges of systemic racism, including poverty, access to childcare and education, all of which may contribute to their being more likely to get reported for abuse or neglect.  It is on Final Reading and I look forward to its passage.

Policy Maker Listening Sessions

On Tuesday I joined several of my colleagues for a listening session hosted by Senator Machaela Cavanaugh. The topic for this week’s listening session was healthcare, housing and food security.  It gave community leaders the opportunity to discuss how federal dollars are being used to support Nebraskans during the COVID-19 crisis and the needs that still persist and require additional dollars and action. I appreciate Senator Cavanaugh facilitating these discussions.

COVID-19 Update

Sarpy County is currently in Phase 3 of the reopening plan, meaning that some but not all restrictions have been lifted. In Phase 3, our current directed health measure (DHM) still requires masks in settings like hair salons or tattoo parlors where it is impossible to receive services at the recommended six foot distance. Gatherings are also limited at this time. The implementation date for Phase 4 is yet to be determined based on the risk of infection throughout this phase and if we continue to see an uptick in positive cases. The Sarpy/Cass County Health Department regularly updates its webpage with news and helpful resources.

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • 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 watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • 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 hope you and yours had a relaxing Memorial Day weekend.  It was rainy but relaxing for our household.  I am looking forward to sunny days ahead.  

Last week ten of my colleagues and I sent a letter to the Governor requesting that he spend some of the CARES Act funds provided to our state to focus on rental relief as the eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of this month. On Wednesday, Governor Ricketts announced that $20 million of the CARES Act funding received by that state would be directed towards community collaborations to address needs such as housing.  This was encouraging news and I am glad that our community collaborative in Sarpy should be able to expand their efforts with the funding.  Lift Up Sarpy has been working hard with community partners to help families in need stay in their homes and apartments during this crisis.  

This week the Governor announced plans for spending most of the CARES Act funds that have come to the state for distribution to address COVID needs. He is reserving nearly $500 million in case Congress acts to allow states to use any of the funds for revenue loss.  At this point, the funds can only be used for new additional expenses, however, efforts are underway to push for more flexibility with this funding. Our Appropriations Chair estimates that we’ll face a $500 shortfall.  This week we received a report from the Department of Revenue outlining the additional revenue losses that will come from changes in the tax law in the COVID federal packages, over $200 million over the next three years.

May is mental health awareness month.  You’ll see several new resources related to mental health at the bottom of this newsletter. Thanks to Lillian for her work to pull these resources together. 

This will be our last weekly newsletter until we begin session again in mid-July.  We will continue to post information about new resources on our webpage and post information on our Facebook page.  We usually only send weekly updates during session.  During this COVID emergency we felt it was important to keep up the weekly newsletters to provide information as the situation was unfolding rapidly.  At this point we expect fewer urgent updates.  If we feel that we need to get out information before the end of June, we’ll send out a special newsletter.  

Unemployment Update

As some begin to return to work, the Nebraska Department of Labor reminds unemployment applicants that they must certify their eligibility every week that they continue to be unemployed by logging into their NEworks account and filing a weekly claim. Even while your claim is being processed, you must certify your eligibility weekly.

If your claim is older than 28 days and you have not received payment, you may contact ndol.unemploymenthelp@nebraska.gov. You may also contact my office at scrawford@leg.ne.gov with questions.

Governor’s Executive Orders & Announcements

Extending Licenses for Seniors

At his press conference on Tuesday, Governor Ricketts announced a new Executive Order extending Driver’s Licenses for all Nebraskans 72 and older with expiration dates between now and the end of 2020. These extensions are good for one year and are meant to lessen public traffic at DMV offices, which in turn will mitigate the spread of the virus.

Additional DMV Updates

Rhonda Lahm, Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles, announced that drive tests will resume this week in courthouses that are open to walk-in traffic. DMV offices will open when local officials make a determination that it is safe to do so. Across the state, new staff has been hired and trained to handle the influx of scheduled tests they are expecting. If you would like to make an appointment to take a drive test, contact the Bellevue DMV office at 402-292-0141.

June 1st Directed Health Measure Information

This upcoming Monday marks the beginning of a new month and the expiration of the April/May DHM. Last week, I shared an announcement about the DHM changing as Sarpy County is moving toward “Phase II” of our COVID-19 response. This week I am sharing more specific details for consumers and business owners as facilities reopen.

Statewide Guidelines

Starting June 1st, only individuals returning from international travel will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon coming back to Nebraska. Limited and non-contact team sports, for both youth and adults, may resume practices on June 1st and games on June 18th. Contact sports like basketball, tackle football, soccer, and wrestling remain prohibited. Rodeos may also begin on June 1st. Rodeo events will be treated as “gatherings” under the new DHMs.

Sarpy Guidelines

Gatherings will be limited to 25 people or 25% of rated occupancy, not to exceed 3,000. Restaurants remain open for dine-in and bars can reopen. Bars and restaurants are limited to 50% of the rated occupancy, with a maximum of six people per table. Gyms, salons, barber shops, massage therapy services and tattoo parlors will be limited to 25 people or 50% of rated occupancy. Workers and patrons in these facilities are required to wear masks under the DHM. Wedding and funeral reception venues will be limited to either 25 people or 50% of rated occupancy. Self-serve buffets and salad bars are prohibited. No dances or other social events that require guests to gather outside of their respective tables are permitted. For full details of the “Phase II” DHMs that include Sarpy County, click here.

Sarpy Chamber Business Grant

Applications for small business grants through the Sarpy Chamber Foundation will be available on June 1st. Small businesses must have 50 employees or less to be eligible. Grants are open to Sarpy Chamber members and non-members if the business is located within Sarpy County, and small businesses outside of Sarpy County must be Sarpy Chamber members.

Mobile Food Pantry at Mission Middle School

Foodbank for the Heartland & Bellevue Public Schools have partnered to host a mobile food pantry on the third Wednesday of every month from 5:00pm – 6:30pm at Mission Middle School, 2202 Washington Street. The next Mobile Food Pantry at Mission Middle School will be June 17th, but there are other mobile pantries around the state. A full schedule of these pantries can be found here.

Resources

General Resources

Nebraskans in need of legal assistance can call Legal Aid of Nebraska’s Free COVID-19 Disaster Relief Hotline at 844-269-5627. They also have a page on their website with COVID information for those with legal questions about employment, debt, domestic violence, housing or stimulus payments.

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development website has been updated to include information about reopening, banking resources and other state agencies that can offer assistance to businesses throughout the pandemic. 

Mental Health Resources and Family Resources 

Right Direction is a great mental health resource for both individuals and employers. Resources like fact sheets, guides, posters, presentation templates, handouts, and articles are available at their website. Information can be accessed for free after creating an account.

Mental Health America is providing screening tools to screen for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. Screening tools are also available in Spanish and for children, parents, and caregivers.

Download the COVID-19 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Tipsheet here, and learn more about topics like coping with the coronavirus crisis, telehealth, autism and coronavirus, managing anxiety, discipline and behavior, remote learning, and dealing with loss.

Ivy’s Library helps teach children emotional literacy by understanding their emotions. A list of over 20 helpful children books is available online at their website, along with other recommendations for Child Mental Health Month.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has extended a special challenge to encourage children and families to get outside: spot five birds and record your sightings. Sign their challenge commitment form and they’ll send free birding materials.

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 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,

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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