News and Events from Nebraska Appleseed – January 2013

In this Happy New Year edition of “Appleseed in Action”:

Keep up with news at the legislature and Appleseed in 2013

nebraska-state-capital1-300x222The Nebraska Legislature reconvenes today, and this year promises another eventful legislative session as Nebraska Appleseed works with our elected officials to continue to move our state forward.

You can keep up with all the exciting happenings at the legislature by following Appleseed on our social media pages. Like our Facebook page and follow issues and legislative hearings in real-time on Appleseed’s Twitter feed.

You can also receive timely email updates on bill introductions, hearings, and floor debate by signing up for Appleseed’s legislative update email list.

Plus, stop by our Appleseed Blog for opinion pieces, informative updates, news stories, and videos of what we’re working on throughout 2013.

Appleseed makes recommendations to Nebraska Child Welfare Commission

In December, the Nebraska Children’s Commission, created by LB 821, released its Phase I Strategic Plan for Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Reform.  The Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee of the Legislature will likely rely heavily on this strategic plan as they continue to work on improving Nebraska’s foster care system this coming Legislative Session.

Appleseed is optimistic about the goals the Commission developed, but the specifics of how to implement these recommendations will be equally important.  The Commission is clear that this report is Phase I of a multiphase reform process, so the work to improve Nebraska’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems is only just beginning.

Appleseed submitted a list of Child Welfare Reform Priorities to the Children’s Commission and is looking forward to working with our state’s leaders to continue reforming our state’s child welfare system during this Legislative session.

Children’s Health Summit panel features top child health care experts

ChildrensHealthSummitHeaderOn December 12, Appleseed’s Jennifer Carter participated in a panel discussion at the 3rd annual Nebraska Children’s Health Summit.  Each year, the Summit brings together some of Nebraska’s top child health experts and educators to illustrate that health care and education form an important, hand-in-hand partnership for children.  Children learn better and miss fewer school days when they are healthy and thrive in healthy families.

The panel focused on the impact Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s new Medicaid program have on children and families.  Carter was joined on the panel by Dr. Rowan Zetterman, Dean of the Creighton University School of Medicine; Andrea Skolkin, Executive Director of One World Health Center in Omaha; and Carol Friesen, Administrator at Crete Area Medical Center.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a keynote speaker at the Summit, said the ACA’s new Medicaid program was a deal “too good for us to pass up,” and added “It would have been fiscally irresponsible for us not to expand Medicaid.”

Nearly 80,000 Nebraskans would become newly eligible for Medicaid if the state Legislature votes to implement the program, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center estimates it could bring billions of federal dollars to the state economy.

Read the Omaha World-Herald’s coverage of the Children’s Health Summit.

Welcoming America’s National Affiliate Conference celebrates diverse communities

welcomingamericalogo-300x124A growing number of communities, including many in Nebraska, are recognizing the economic and social benefits of welcoming and engaging immigrant residents.

In December, Nebraska Appleseed staff joined Welcoming America affiliates from 21 states at the 4th annual National Affiliate Conference in Atlanta.

At the conference, affiliates from states near and far met to discuss diverse strategies for creating welcoming communities. Detroit is creating opportunities for immigrant and long-term neighbors to get to know one another in neighborhoods.  Dayton, Ohio, is creating an initiative woven into city government which includes a city resolution and a city position dedicated to fostering relationships between newcomers and the receiving community members.

As participants from across the country discussed the importance of fostering greater mutual understanding and respect among all community members, Darcy Tromanhauser and Christa Yoakum with Nebraska Is Home shared successes with You’re Welcome In Omaha.

In 2012, Omaha community members including artists, young professionals, faith leaders, educators, and employers welcomed new Omahans with You’re Welcome In Omaha posters.  They shared their own welcoming messages and learned more about new neighbors through film screenings, community conversations, and a kickoff party with food, art, music, and poetry.

Learn more about welcoming efforts happening nationwide at Welcoming America.

Extra Credit report provides solutions for working and low-income students

Pages-from-Extra-Credit-BookletGetting a degree is one of the best long-term pathways out of poverty for working and low-income families.  At the same time, some of these families need support while they work towards a degree or credential.

In fact, research shows that being able to access public assistance programs, such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, can help keep students in school and help them succeed. However, eligible students often do not access these programs because they are unaware of their availability.

Last month, Nebraska Appleseed released a new guidebook to help students.  “Extra Credit: Resources for Non-Traditional, Parenting, and Low-Income Students” is now available.  This guide specifically addresses issues faced by students seeking assistance.

Also, check out our full library of materials about rights in public benefits programs.
We encourage you to study it closely and share this information with your students, clients, and friends!

Thank you for your support and friendship in 2012!

appleseed_holidaySo many friends, partners, and supporters contributed to a wonderful year for Nebraska Appleseed in 2012, and we want to take a moment to say “thank you!”

With your invaluable support, Nebraska Appleseed was able to affect true, positive change for our state in the past year.  Here is a look at some of our shared successes:

  • Restored prenatal care to more than 1,500 low-income children after more than two years’ worth of work in the courts and at the Nebraska Legislature.
  • Rolled back privatization and brought much needed accountability and transparency to Nebraska’s foster care system.
  • Improved low-income children’s access to nutritious food during the summer.
  • Created opportunities for low-income parents to get an Associate’s Degree or GED as a primary work activity under the cash assistance welfare program.
  • Required greater transparency from the Division of Medicaid on guidelines used to approve or deny health care for children with autism and developmental disabilities and filed a class action lawsuit to protect their rights.
  • Defeated a misguided voter identification bill that would have created disproportionate and unnecessary barriers for seniors, youth, low-income, and disabled Nebraskans to exercise their right to vote.

But we certainly could not have done this alone.  Throughout 2012 you made phone calls and wrote letters to your elected officials. You attended public forums and educated your friends, family, and colleagues on the issues. And many of you made personal donations in support of our efforts.

You share in these victories, and we couldn’t be more grateful for your support.  Here’s to continuing to make a positive difference in 2013!  Have a Happy New Year from your friends at Nebraska Appleseed!

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