Last week, we shared Appleseed’s analysis that the Governor acting unilaterally to spend Nebraska’s Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) violates the state’s constitutional separation of powers. There has been no legislative action taken to provide the required and specific appropriation of CRF needed for the Governor to spend these funds, which means the Legislature must formally appropriate CRF to provide the relief so desperately needed by Nebraskans. With the Legislature reconvening in July, the opportunity will arise to receive public input on CRF prioritization and take action to constitutionally appropriate CRF.
As soon as they return, the Legislature should start with a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the current pending budget bill, LB1008, that would specifically address the spending of Nebraska’s CRF. This hearing would also allow the public to have a chance to provide input to lawmakers about how such a great sum of emergency relief money should be invested during a national crisis.
After the hearing, that CRF spending appropriation amendment could then be added to LB1008, which would then provide an opportunity for the CRF spending to be debated by the full Legislature. If that amendment was adopted, it would then become a part of LB1008 and go through the rest of the legislative process, eventually to be signed or vetoed by the Governor.
While the Governor has already spent some of the CRF funds, the Legislature can and should fulfill their constitutional duty so that the remainder of the funds can be lawfully spent. In fact, there is at least $420 million of CRF that the Governor did not obligate to any particular COVID-19 response plan that the Legislature should direct specifically.
As we said last week, these CRF resources are key to ensuring Nebraskans hit hardest by the pandemic – including people of color, frontline workers, meatpacking workers, and Nebraskans paid low wages or who have lost their jobs – receive the help needed not just to recover but to thrive. The least the Legislature must do is pass a specific, precise appropriation of CRF when they resume session on July 20th.