It was good to have my office opened and fully staffed this past Wednesday. We were able to meet with representatives from First Five Nebraska, University of Nebraska, and the Chamber of Commerce to discuss their focus and ideas as we move forward into the remaining 17 days of the 2020 Legislative Session on July 20 and look ahead to the 2021 Session.

Along with the teams at Northeast Nebraska Public Health (NNPH), Dakota County Health (DCH), and the Winnebago Comprehensive Healthcare System (WCHS), we mourn with the families who have lost loved ones during this pandemic. As Danielle Smith, CEO of WCHS pointed out, we were fortunate to have only one new positive test from the recent mass testing done at Winnebago recently, but recognize that we also had two COVID-19 related deaths, which amplifies the need for us to continue to take this virus seriously by following suggested safety guidelines. “We are a small community and every single life lost to this virus is one too many,” said CEO Smith. We agree.

Reopening Nebraska: Unfortunately, county fairs for 2020 in District 17 have been cancelled. However, Wayne County will have a couple of days for the 4-H and FFA participants to display their projects from the past year to family members with tickets.

As our state continues to reopen safely and gradually, I am honored to be attending and speaking at the unveiling of two signs for the newly named Medal of Honor Highway being held at the Siouxland Freedom Park in South Sioux City on Thursday July 2, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. The ceremony is open to the public.

Early last week, Governor Ricketts announced further loosening of COVID-19-related restrictions throughout the State. Effective June 22, 2020, Thurston and Wayne Counties are among the 89 counties now in Phase 3 of the Safe State Reopening Plan and Dakota County moves into Phase 2. Statewide and Directed Health Measures (DHMs) for each individual county, along with answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) can be found at http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/COVID-19-Directed-Health-Measures.aspx. Updated Reopening Guidelines can be accessed at: http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/COVID-19-Nebraska-Guidance-Documents.aspx

Unemployment: Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ released May unemployment rates, showing that Nebraska had the lowest rate in the nation at 5.2%. The Platte Institute noted “a more optimistic picture for our nation” citing lower rates in 38 states. This speaks well of the Nebraska work ethic and resiliency, as well as the unity with which many individuals, businesses, and agricultural producers have pulled together to get the State’s economy back on track. The report showed that the number of unemployed in Nebraska was 54,879 in the state, down from a high of 92,638 in April. . Of course, we all recognize there is still a long way to go. At the Legislature, other Senators and I are mindful that we need to consider opportunities we have to help the continued recovery.

Additionally, Extended Benefits (EB) for eligible unemployed individuals who exhaust their previous unemployment benefits are made available according to an announcement by the Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) on Monday, June 22. The EB program offers up to an additional 13 weeks of benefits to eligible persons. NDOL will notify eligible individuals and issue application instructions. The benefit amount will be the same as the individual received for regular unemployment compensation.

Other Resources.

Business and Livestock Producers. My office was contacted by a number of producers who experienced a “glitch” in the application itself that may have caused an automatic denial of applications for the Small Business Stabilization Grants and Livestock Producers that was announced in my newsletter last week. On June 16, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) announced a temporary halt to accepting those applications in order to give the Department sufficient time to validate all applicants more thoroughly and to avoid potential delays in issuing eligible grants. The DED begins accepting applications again today, June 22, 2020 and the deadline has been extended to 5:00 pm (CST) on July 1, 2020. If you received a denial to your application and believe you should be eligible for the program(s), you may apply or re-applying at: https://getnebraskagrowing.nebraska.gov/ag-grants/

Food Security. Under a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provides assistance to those families eligible for free or reduce meals, Nebraska is able to offer additional resources to current and newly eligible SNAP recipients. Those currently receiving benefits do not need to take any action and will have their increased benefits automatically credited to their EBT card. Families newly eligible can apply in person at a participating Food Bank, online through the P-EBT portal at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) webpage or by phone by calling ACCESSNebraska hotline at 800.383.4278.

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by contacting me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov or by calling my office at 402.471.2716.

In other news

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