Appleseed joins nationwide groups in calling for federal action to prevent racial profiling

NE_Appleseed_Icons_CivilRights-128Last week, Nebraska Appleseed joined the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and more than 100 organizations across the country in calling for federal action to prevent discriminatory profiling by law enforcement that continues to occur across the country.

Read the group’s full statement

In the statement, the groups called for increased accountability in state and local law enforcement agencies that will reduce the instances of discriminatory racial profiling that continue to drive a wedge between law enforcement and the public it is sworn to protect and serve, such as in the current unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

“Last week’s shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the military-style response by the local police to demonstrators, and allegations of racially biased law enforcement are the result of longstanding and corrosive limitations on our nation’s law enforcement policies that allow unlawful profiling to persist across the country,” the group said in the statement.

“The Department of Justice should update the federal Guidance on the Use of Race to help ensure that the harmful and unproductive practice of racial profiling is eliminated from law enforcement tactics,” said Rebecca Gonzales, coordinator of Nebraska Appleseed’s Racial Justice Project. “Congress should pass the End Racial Profiling Act which would provide uniformity on the definition of racial profiling and training to local law enforcement agencies.  And our Nebraska Crime Commission should continue to vigorously enforce our newly revised anti-racial profiling law.  Together, these are good first steps towards beginning to address these bias-based policing techniques which cause distrust of police by the community and undermine effective policing and public safety.”

Nebraska recently updated the 2001 state law that bans racial profiling by all law enforcement agencies in the state.  All agencies must have had an anti-racial profiling policy in place by January 1, 2014, that includes internal methods of prevention and enforcement.

Nebraska also has a Racial Profiling Advisory Committee made up of law enforcement and community organizations that is charged with advising the Nebraska Crime Commission on racial profiling prevention policies, data collection and analysis, review of the annual reports and policy recommendations.  The Committee meets twice a year – the next public meeting is September 18 at 9:30 a.m. at the Nebraska Crime Commission’s offices on the 5th floor, 301 Centennial Mall in Lincoln.

We strongly encourage Nebraskans to attend this meeting and learn more about how racial profiling is being addressed in Nebraska.

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RELEASE – Federal HHS approves Bridge to Independence program

***For Immediate Release***NE_Appleseed_Icons_AgingOut-128

August 21, 2014

Contact, Jeff Sheldon
Nebraska Appleseed
Office: (402) 438-8853
Mobile: (402) 840-7289

Federal HHS approves ‘Bridge to Independence’ program for young adults aging out of foster care

Today, Nebraska received official approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of Nebraska’s state plan amendment under LB 216, the “Young Adult Bridge to Independence Act,” passed by the Nebraska Legislature in the 2013 session and refined by LB 853, passed during the 2014 session.

This approval means eligible young adults can begin to participate in the Bridge to Independence program within 60 days, on or before October 20, 2014.

The Bridge to Independence program will improve outcomes for young adults who age out of foster care by creating a system of voluntary supports to age 21, including housing support, health care, and young adult-directed case management designed to help the young people make a successful transition to adulthood.

“With the final federal approval now given, young Nebraskans who age out of foster care finally will be able to get valuable tools to become successful, healthy adults,” said State Senator Amanda McGill, sponsor of LB 216 and LB 853. “I want to give my great thanks to all of the young people who gave input on this program and the stakeholders who will help it work as successfully as possible for a brighter future for Nebraska’s youth.”

“The level of collaboration between stakeholders, experts, and the young people themselves makes us confident that the Bridge to Independence program will help more Nebraska youth arrive at the positive outcomes we all wish for,” said Nebraska Appleseed Child Welfare Director Sarah Helvey. “This will make a difference in the lives of hundreds of young people in Nebraska, giving them an opportunity to access critical services and support during a very important time in their lives.”

To learn more, see Appleseed’s fact sheet or visit for additional details on the Bridge to Independence program.  Young adults who may be eligible should contact their local DHHS office with questions, and can also contact Nebraska Appleseed at (402) 438-8853.

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There are many faces of hunger in Nebraska

Feeding-America-LogoA new study released this week highlighted the often-overlooked fact that food insecurity is a problem faced by hundreds of thousands of our friends and neighbors here in Nebraska.

The study, Hunger In America 2014, was produced by Feeding America, an anti-hunger organization that operates a nationwide series of food banks. It examines the number and demographics of people who receive food from food pantries across the country.

The Lincoln Journal Star broke down the numbers in Nebraska in a recent story on the study. The demographics in the report show that hunger is a problem that crosses all demographic lines in our state. Nebraskans who struggle to get the food they need come from every age, race, employment status, and education level.

The study found that in Nebraska:

* 25,400 people receive food from Lincoln and Omaha-area food banks each week.

* 64 percent of those visiting the food banks identify themselves as white; 16 percent are Hispanic or Latino; 7 percent are African-American.

* 18 percent are 60 or older.

* 55 percent said at least one person in their home was employed at some point last year.

* 42 percent have some form of post-secondary education.

* 70 percent said they had to choose between paying for food or paying for utilities.

* 64 percent had to choose between paying for food or medicine/medical care.

Notice that these numbers create a face of poverty that may be different than perceived stereotypes. A large majority of the people who visited food banks were white, over half of the households were working families, and a large percentage had at least some college education.

Food banks play a vital role to alleviate hunger in our state, and they do a fantastic job.  However it is unreasonable to ask them to fight hunger alone.  It is absolutely essential that our public policies work as effectively as possible to fight hunger, too.  And our policymakers have a large role to play in making sure those policies work.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps 170,000 Nebraskans – nearly 10 percent of our population – get enough to eat each year, and nearly 75 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children.

Our leaders must protect crucial anti-hunger programs like SNAP and fight against dangerous changes to the program that would endanger hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans.  And our state agencies must do more to ensure food assistance is administered as quickly and efficiently as possible so fewer Nebraska families face the crisis of hunger.

We are a better and stronger state when Nebraskans of all backgrounds – parents, workers, children, and older adults alike – have the food they need to be healthy and productive.

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Concertgoers branch out to Appleseed at Maha 2014

More than 400 Maha festivalgoers added their thoughts to our Tree of Engagement.

More than 400 Maha festivalgoers added their thoughts to our Tree of Engagement.

Nebraska Appleseed was honored to be selected for the third year in a row to participate in the Maha Music Festival’s Community Village last Saturday!

Maha is a nonprofit, day-long music festival bringing together national, regional and local indie and rock artists. Twenty local nonprofits were invited to participate in the Community Village, using engaging activities to share their missions with the festival goers.

For the Maha Community Village this year, Appleseed and You’re Welcome In Omaha had three separate interactive activities which made up one striking visual representation of our community’s inclusive atmosphere, positive ideals, and commitment to civic engagement. Maha fans were invited to register or pledge to vote, learn about their health care coverage options and enter a raffle for a poster, and take a picture in our Welcoming photo booth.

By the end of the day, 32 people were newly registered to vote and more than 400 Maha goers added a leaf or apple to our Tree of Civic Engagement!

Maha2014_Omaha InclusiveThanks to the Maha Music Festival for inviting us, Centris Federal Credit Union for sponsoring the Community Village, and special thanks to everyone who stopped by Appleseed’s booth, showing that Maha fans are committed to civic engagement.

Voting Apple


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2014 Appleseed Interns and Law Clerks – Meet Ashley Kunz

Note: Each year, Nebraska Appleseed is fortunate to work with a number of bright, talented law clerks and interns. This is one of a series of posts that feature Appleseed’s clerks and interns discussing their backgrounds and experiences.

Appleseed intern Ashley Kunz is a UNL student who hopes to go into international law.

Appleseed intern Ashley Kunz is a UNL student who hopes to go into international law.

She was so sure about what she wanted to do for a career that for three years straight, Nebraska Appleseed intern Ashley Kunz dressed up as a lawyer for Halloween.

“There was no single event that made me want to go into law,” she said. “For as long as I can remember I wanted to practice law.”

Currently an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in Global Studies with a History and French minor, she hopes to eventually continue her education by attending law school, then getting a Master of Laws in International Law.

Her desire to work in international law started in high school but quickly carried over to her college career.

“I went to France my junior year of high school and really enjoyed the international aspect of that,” she said. “I’m part of the model United Nations at UNL and am interested in something that crosses borders and involves more than one country.”

But for this summer, Ashley is in her native Lincoln working for Nebraska Appleseed in hopes of creating positive change.

“I had heard about Appleseed from one of my professors and I wanted to get involved with a law firm that not only advocated for change through legislation but also helped real people through outreach in the community,” Ashley said. “I hope that once I’ve finished my time here at Nebraska Appleseed I have a better understanding of how the legal system works and have made a positive impact even if it was a small one.”

Name: Ashley Kunz

Position: Intern

Hometown: Lincoln, NE

About me: I am currently an undergrad at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and I am a Global Studies major with a History and French minor and I am also pre-law.

Future plans: I would like to continue my education after graduating from UNL and go to law school to get my J.D. and Master of Laws in International Law.

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2014 Appleseed Interns and Law Clerks – Meet Trevor Slawnyk

Note: Each year, Nebraska Appleseed is fortunate to work with a number of bright, talented law clerks and interns. This is one of a series of posts that feature Appleseed’s clerks and interns discussing their backgrounds and experiences.

Trevor Slawnyk is an Appleseed fellow from Utica, NE, who helps maintain and develop our database.

Trevor Slawnyk is an Appleseed fellow from Utica, NE, who helps maintain and develop our database.

Go forth and code, young man.

Behind all those lines of numbers and letters that add up to documents, presentations and projects on Appleseed’s computer screens is Trevor Slawnyk, a fellow at Nebraska Appleseed.

“I’ve always been really good at computers and I thought I could make some money doing what I liked,” Trevor said. “I am really excited to be designing solutions for the database and writing code to help these lovely people.”

Trevor is currently studying computer science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is originally from Utica, NE.

“I plan to soak up as much info as I can at the University and then go forth into the world, coding happily,” Trevor said. “Users believe they have found ways to make their work more efficient when it comes to using the database. My job is to make their wants a reality.”

But Trevor is working toward making big changes in the way people use their computers. At least that’s the dream.

“I want to be on the end of design that perceives problems and creates solutions,” he said. “Not just little hot fixes, but revolutionary and innovative changes to how people use computers.”

Meanwhile, he’s thankful for the opportunity through the Lincoln Community Foundation that connected his skills to Nebraska Appleseed.

“Well, I feel blessed with all the opportunities I’ve been given,” Trevor said, “so I was really glad that these Cintani Grants allowed me to help the Lincoln community using my strengths.”

Name: Trevor Slawnyk

Position: Fellow

Hometown: Utica, Nebraska

About me: Student at UNL studying Computer Science. I’ve always been really good at computers, and I thought I could make some money doing what I liked. I am colorblind and have double-jointed thumbs.

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Nebraska losing over $4 billion by not expanding Medicaid

This week the Urban Institute released a fiscal study of the effects felt by states that have not chosen to fully implement the Affordable Care Act by expanding Medicaid to people who make up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

Urban_Institute-LOGOThis study shows us just how much it’s costing Nebraska’s health care system to continue to forgo expanding Medicaid, the cost of which would be paid fully by the federal government through 2017.

From now until 2022, Nebraska is losing out on $3.1 billion in federal funds to provide health coverage to tens of thousands of our poorest people.

Meanwhile, Nebraska hospitals are taking an enormous hit, losing out on $1.6 billion in care reimbursement payments that would be made through the newly eligible Medicaid clients.

These funds we could be bringing back to our state are tax dollars Nebraskans already are paying to fund Medicaid expansions in other states, meaning we are getting nothing here at home for those tax dollars.

Those lost dollars will put a strain on the budgets of our state’s hospitals, especially those in rural areas, which will be faced with rising uncompensated care costs.  In the last year, 20 of the 22 rural hospitals in the U.S. that have closed are in states that did not expand Medicaid. And we’re already seeing hospitals getting a big boost in states that did expand Medicaid.

Now we have further evidence that by passing up the Medicaid expansion portion of the Affordable Care Act, we’re not only paying a high human cost by denying health coverage to at least 54,000 of our friends and neighbors, we’re throwing away an enormous amount of money.

It is vitally important our state Legislature votes to expand Medicaid for the future sustainability of our health care system and the future health of our people.

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2014 Appleseed Interns and Law Clerks – Meet Selina Martinez

Appleseed intern Selina Martinez changed plans from medical school to an eye on changing policy.

Appleseed intern Selina Martinez changed plans from medical school to an eye on changing policy.

Note: Each year, Nebraska Appleseed is fortunate to work with a number of bright, talented law clerks and interns. This is one of a series of posts that feature Appleseed’s clerks and interns discussing their backgrounds and experiences.


Sometimes dreams change for the better.

“I’ve always wanted to help people. Since I was a little girl I told everyone I was going to become a doctor,” Nebraska Appleseed intern Selina Martinez said. “Up until my sophomore year at UNL I was on track to go to medical school. I was even awarded a health and human science scholarship. However, after taking various sociology classes I came to realize that without a policy change being a doctor wouldn’t have the same impact as I wanted to give.”

After that, the Lincoln transplant originally from California decided to switch to a sociology major.

“My dream job would probably be something where I get to interact with my community or maybe conducting studies that can influence policy,” Selina said. “The results from those studies can help debunk myths or influence policy change.”

Selina is working with the Immigrants & Communities team at Appleseed where she is getting a glimpse into real-world application of classroom concepts.

“I wanted to work at Appleseed because I wanted to be more involved with the immigrant community in a way that I could help them,” Selina said. “When I started I was hoping to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to the real world, and I have. I like working with the community, and for me it’s exciting and interesting to see what communities have to say.”

But wherever there’s a job that must be done there’s an element of fun.

“I chose Appleseed because a previous intern told me about how much she enjoyed working at Appleseed and I wanted to see what all the fun was about.”

Name: Selina Martinez

Position: Intern

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA/Lincoln, NE

About me: I was born in Los Angeles, but most of my life I grew up in Lincoln. I love living in Lincoln and like it a whole lot more than LA. Something unique about me is that I was named after Catwoman, whose real name is Selina Kyle. My three older brothers were obsessed with Batman at the time and begged my mom to name me Selina. I’ve always wanted to help people.

Future plans: After I graduate, I want to get my Masters degree. I haven’t decided in what I would like my Masters in yet but I’m leaning towards sociology or student affairs.

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