Weekly Update: Essential Nebraskans need essential protections at work

Nebraska Appleseed’s Weekly Update

Over the past month, the focus of our weekly Legislative Update has pivoted to provide timely updates about the many policy changes happening to help communities amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Given the rapid changes happening each week, and our newsletter’s broadening scope, we decided to pause our normal Legislative Update and instead send a Weekly Update to our supporters so you can know the most up-to-date info about policies being considered, what the changes mean, and how you can take action. 

We plan to resume our Legislative Update when the Unicameral is back in session! 

Essential workers need essential protections as meatpacking outbreaks grow

Growing COVID-19 outbreaks and meatpacking plant closures highlight that the clock is ticking for Nebraska to take stronger safety measures to protect its workforce. 

In addition to cases at the Grand Island JBS plant, the Omaha World-Herald recently reported that ten workers at a Hastings meatpacking plant and one worker at Fremont chicken plant have tested positive for COVID-19. In nearby Sioux Falls, one of the largest pork processing facilities in the U.S. is closing until further notice with over 200 coronavirus cases reported. 

Nebraska needs to institute physical distancing measures on the processing floor in all meat and poultry plants and provide employees with benefits like paid sick leave. These protections and benefits will help slow the spread and make sure that workers, their families, and communities are able to stay safe.

Take action: Contact Governor Ricketts by calling his office at (402) 471-2244 and ask him to take additional measures to ensure that Nebraskans are safe and protected while at work. 

Nebraska needs Medicaid expansion now

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced that, due to its work in responding to COVID-19, the federal government is unable to approve the proposed Medicaid expansion waiver at this time. However, the state will be allowed to forward with tiered benefits starting October 1 while approval of the waiver is pending.

While we appreciate that coverage will not be further delayed beyond October 1 by the new approach the Department must take, we maintain Nebraska can start coverage now. Starting the program now would allow the over 90,000 Nebraskans currently without coverage to be able to receive needed health care services to care for themselves, their families, their communities, and in many cases, to continue carrying out essential front line work in health care and food production and distribution.

Emergency SNAP allotment dates set for Nebraskans

DHHS has announced that it will be providing emergency funds to families enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). These additional SNAP funds for families were made possible by recent federal laws passed in Congress to help fight food insecurity during this pandemic and will increase the overall amount of SNAP benefits families receive these next two months. DHHS issued the emergency funds to SNAP recipients on April 11 and will issue additional funds for recipients again on May 7. For more details, click here

Changes to Nebraska’s unemployment benefits system

There have been a number of helpful changes to Nebraska’s unemployment benefits system to assist those impacted by a job loss because of the pandemic. We put together a blog that outlines what those benefits are, who is eligible, and how to apply for those benefits. You can find our blog in English here and in Spanish here

Vote by mail applications available to all Nebraska voters

All registered voters will be receiving an application to vote by mail. Watch your mailbox for the application from your local election office or the Secretary of State’s office. 

You can return completed forms by mail or email them to your local election office. Find your local office here. For more information about the vote by mail process, including new changes to the in-person early voting process, click here

Stay up to date on Appleseed’s issues

You can keep up on the latest updates by following Appleseed online. Like our Facebook page and follow issues in real-time on Appleseed’s Twitter feed. Stop by our blog for opinion pieces, informative updates, and news stories. 

We’ll let you know how you can take action to get involved and make your voice heard!

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