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COVID-19 proves costly for Nebraska

COVID-19 proves costly for Nebraska

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Dorn

Myron Dorn

As the days go by and we are still observing the Directed Health Measures in District 30, it is easy to let your guard down and get complacent. The announcement of the loosening of some restrictions in the near future is welcome news.

However, I encourage you to keep doing the right things to stay healthy and safe. Our area has been fortunate thus far to be low on the list of reported COVID-19 cases and we should all continue to work hard to keep it that way.

This week my staff and I were able to take part in several online meetings and webinars, allowing us to stay current with a number of reports and the work of state divisions and organizations.

The Appropriations Committee also continues to receive updates on the economic impact of the virus. At this point, we are hearing that Nebraska state and local sales tax receipts are estimated to have declined by $13.6 million through April 4. State personal and corporate income tax receipts are estimated to have declined $11.7 million over the same period.

Under the current Directed Health Measure, 3.46% of Nebraska workers eligible for unemployment are estimated to receive benefits. The average increase in unemployment among shelter-in-place states is 4.49%, while the average of states that do not have a statewide shelter-in-place order, including Nebraska, is 2.47%.

The report estimates 96,147 job losses in Nebraska through early April, resulting in a loss of more than a quarter of a billion dollars in wages, salaries, and self-employment income. These figures do not account for federal money that has come into the state through COVID-19 relief programs. As I have stated, we will know more when the April tax receipt report comes out in mid May.

On Friday, new federal provisions under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act were signed into law in Washington DC. This is a $484 billion relief package, with the vast majority of funds allocated to the Small Business Administration for Paycheck Protection Program funding. However, approximately $100 billion has been allocated for health care related provisions: an additional $75 billion to hospitals and health care providers; and $25 billion for coronavirus testing, with $11 billion of that specifically for state, local, and tribal governments to expand testing capacity.

Also, $600 million of that of the $25 billion is allocated both for grants under the Health Centers program, and for grants to federally qualified health centers. $225 million of the $25 billion is allocated to rural health clinics for COVID-19 testing and related expenses. Hopefully this additional infusion of dollars will help support the Nebraska economy and health care system.

Many people have mentioned that without their usual schedule, it is hard to keep track of what day it is. This week we had a date in Nebraska that may have passed by, like a number of important events, without the typical fanfare - Arbor Day. This holiday originated right here in our state in 1872 as a result of the efforts of J. Sterling Morton to promote the planting of trees on our otherwise treeless prairie.

Another date to remember: May 1 is the last day to send in your mail-in ballot request form. To date, County Clerks/Election Commissioners have received 271,449 ballot requests. In 2016, a Presidential Election year, statewide votes totaled 313,000. We are on track to have a successful election turn out even with the virus, but don’t miss your chance to participate in this important civic duty.

Poll workers are still needed for the primary on May 12., even while we hope actual physical turn out will be very low. Contact your County Clerk/Election Commissioner to become a poll worker.

In coordination with the FDA, the Red Cross, along with blood industry partners, 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. 

From the Department of Health and Human Services: This week DHHS received approval from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid for Nebraska’s emergency waiver application covering developmental disability services, through Appendix K of the Medicaid Section.

Appendix K allows the state to be responsive to the needs to DD waiver recipients and providers impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19, recommended closures, and quarantines due to potential exposure, or for those following the CDC guidelines for those with disabilities. Contact DHHS for additional information. http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Developmental-Disabilities.aspx

From the Nebraska Ethanol Board: since April 5, more than 21,000 gallons of hand sanitizer has been produced at a temporary production facility at Nebraska Innovation Campus. The product has made its way into hospitals, nursing homes, blood banks, daycares, fire stations, and many other healthcare facilities. The need for hand sanitizer continues, but our supply of materials is dwindling. Many organizations have stepped up to donate supplies at a time when they too are hurting, in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19. They too have limits. If you are able to support these efforts, please consider giving at the link below. If you aren't able to give, please share this link with friends, businesses, or others who can help. We will continue to produce sanitizer as long as supplies allow. Thank you for your support! https://fundraise.nufoundation.org/NEHandSanitizer

From the Nebraska Department of Labor: any worker in a non-paid status due to COVID-19 may file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. Unemployment claims in Nebraska are filed online at NEworks.nebraska.gov. The NEworks mobile app is available to download for free. After filing a new initial claim, applicants must certify their eligibility every week that they continue to be unemployed by logging into their NEworks account. These weekly certifications must be completed even while the new claim is still being processed. Claim and payment status can also be viewed by logging into the NEworks account.

From the Governor’s office: Gov. Ricketts introduced Test Nebraska, a new program that will assess, test and track COVID-19 cases in Nebraska. Nebraskans can visit testnebraska.com to complete an online assessment. The program is designed to increase the number of tests done in Nebraska. Ricketts said the program will help the state significantly ramp up testing. Testing is important so spread of the virus in the state will slow. Rather than asking everyone to stay home, the increased testing will allow only those who test positive to stay home while those who test negative can return to work.

The testing will be free for Nebraskans and will give the state real-time information about COVID-19.As part of the plan, Nebraskans are asked to take the #TestNebraskaChallenge and nominate five friends to take the test.

From local business: Inspired by the heroes we continue to serve, starting Wednesday, April 22, through Tuesday, May 5, all first responders and healthcare workers are eligible for a free “Thank You Meal" via drive-thru and carry-out at participating McDonald’s locations by simply showing a work badge. Each meal will be served in the iconic Happy Meal Box with breakfast and daytime options available. Please click here and here for social media posts promoting this offer. Please also consider sharing these to your networks to help spread word to first responders and healthcare workers.

Thank you for continuing to reach out with your questions and concerns. You can contact me at any time through phone or email and we will respond as quickly as we are able. mdorn@leg.ne.gov 402-471-2620.

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