Let’s Get Nebraska Growing
By Governor Pete Ricketts
June 8, 2020
Governor’s official photo here.
Last year, Nebraskans came together in the wake of unprecedented flooding to prove the meaning of “Nebraska Strong.” After experiencing the most widespread natural disaster in state history during the spring of 2019, Nebraskans worked to rebuild bigger and better than before. The recovery was remarkable. By the last quarter of 2019, Nebraska had the fastest-growing economy in the Midwest.
In 2020, we’ve battled a new challenge. The coronavirus has been disruptive, and many people have lost jobs—or seen a reduction in employment—due to the pandemic. Through it all, our approach has been to preserve the healthcare system to make sure Nebraskans have access to medical care. We’ve succeeded in this goal, and now we can begin our return to a more normal life. As we do, Nebraska is in a strong position to regain jobs and restore growth. My team has actively assessed needs, engaged with job creators, and developed a strategy to get Nebraska growing as coronavirus restrictions lessen.
In late April, we conducted a Nebraska Business Response Survey in partnership with the University of Nebraska and state and local chambers of commerce. Of the more than 4,500 organizations that participated, 87% reported having been negatively impacted by the effects of the virus. Their feedback provided us with valuable information about the challenges employers are facing, as well as the hopes they have for the future.
I’ve directed Tony Goins, Director of the State’s Department of Economic Development (DED), to convene a task force to “Get Nebraska Growing.” Tony has brought together community leaders, business groups, and nonprofits to gather ideas and input to help us chart the path forward. We’ve also been in frequent contact with industry associations, mayors, health care networks, and other groups. Even under the toughest circumstances, it’s been encouraging to see Nebraskans’ spirit of partnership and optimism for the future.
About $7.8 billion in federal aid has come to Nebraska from coronavirus relief programs. The federal relief has been significant to help our recovery from the pandemic. The biggest source of assistance has been the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) overseen by the Small Business Administration. Nebraska ranked among the top states, per capita, in accessing these funds. Over 40,000 organizations in Nebraska have benefited from PPP funds. Our community banks did an excellent job of helping small businesses get approved for this program so that they can keep people employed. In Nebraska, banks know their customers on a first-name basis. These relationships, strengthened by years of personalized customer service, have been a big benefit to small businesses as they navigate the pandemic.
As part of the $7.8 billion in federal assistance to the state, Nebraska is receiving $1.25 billion from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to help with our response to the pandemic. Of this amount, metro areas with a population of 500,000 or more are receiving direct aid. In Nebraska, Douglas County qualified for direct assistance ($166 million). The remainder ($1.084 billion) is coming to the State for disbursement. I recently unveiled a plan to invest these funds into four priorities.
- Critical Community Services
$85 million will go to community programs that provide critical services such as food security, shelter, and behavioral health care. Service providers can visit the Community Cares website for updates on applying for funds.
- Business and Agriculture
$392 million will go to assist business and agriculture. Of this amount, $330 million will be made available to small businesses and livestock producers through grants to help them regain financial stability. Another $40 million will fund a rural broadband remote access grant program to speed and enhance Internet connectivity in small communities. Nebraska businesses, ag producers, and communities can apply for grants online by visiting getnebraskagrowing.nebraska.gov.
- State and Local Governments
$180 million will be used to reimburse state and local governments for the extra costs they’ve incurred to keep Nebraskans as safe as possible from the virus. For example, local health departments have hired additional teammates to work in public health. They’ve purchased Personal Protective Equipment for healthcare workers and first responders along with extra disinfectants and sanitizers. They’ve bought ventilators and provided medical transportation to ensure Nebraskans have access to needed treatment. For county governments to be eligible for reimbursement for these coronavirus-related expenses, they must open their courthouses and offices to the public—on a non-appointment basis—by June 15, 2020.
- Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and Potential General Budget Flexibility
$427 million will go to replenish the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund and, potentially, to provide general budget flexibility during these uncertain times. Nebraska received three years’ worth of unemployment claims in two months during the peak of the pandemic. While federal funds have provided extra pandemic assistance, state resources have covered regular benefits. We want to make sure the UI Fund continues to have ample money to meet the needs of Nebraskans whose employment is affected by the pandemic.
You can find details about how the State is using federal funds to Get Nebraska Growing on my website.
As we continue to open more activities and businesses, I encourage you to keep up-to-date with all the latest information by visiting dhhs.ne.gov/coronavirus and governor.nebraska.gov. Nebraskans have demonstrated their ability to overcome difficulties time and again. As we have before, I am confident Nebraska will emerge from the coronavirus strong, united, and growing more than ever.