Green Lights

UnicameralAt the capitol, in the legislative chamber, there is a large sign listing each Senator’s name. When a Senator votes in favor of a bill, a light next to their name turns bright green.

Yesterday, those lights turned green in overwhelming favor of LB 543, legislation to address hunger in our state. The bill passed the second round vote and must only go to final reading before being sent to the Governor to be signed into law.

It was a victory for Nebraska families because LB 543 will increase access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) by developing outreach strategies and lifting prohibitive asset and savings rules. The bill has no fiscal cost to the state, streamlines the program, and leverages both private and federal dollars for greater impact. These changes truly will help more people to put dinner on the table, save for emergencies, and build better lives. This is essentially important, as data released just today illustrates food insecurity in every county in our state, with a statewide average of 11.8% and a high of 20.4% in Thurston county. See the data

It was also a victory because of the community of Nebraskans who came together on this issue. Anti-hunger advocates spoke out strongly at the hearing – and their words and their work represented that our state cares about the needs of Nebraska families and wants to see those need better met through stronger, smarter government programs. Experts and supporters in Nebraska and nationwide also played key roles in making change happen. Momentum is building here.

Finally, it was a victory for Nebraska public policy. Senator Cook and Senator Nordquist, the sponsors of the legislation, were champions on the issue – passionately reminding the legislative body of the moral, health-related, and fiscal value of the SNAP program. The full legislature’s support of this legislation illustrates recognition by our state’s leaders that smart, proactive anti-poverty strategies make sense for Nebraska families.

As for me, standing just outside the chamber, watching the vote take place, I saw not only a victory, but a “green light” for more anti-hunger, anti-poverty work. There’s more to be done, there is more we can do – together – add your name to our Working Families listserve to join us.

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