Human Trafficking Victims Assistance Bill Gets First-Round OK

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LINCOLN, Neb., (AP) – Victims of human trafficking could be offered safe houses and counseling to get away from the people who are exploiting them under a bill receiving 46-0 first-round approval Monday in the Nebraska Legislature.

The bill by State Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Omaha is the latest move in a multi-year effort to clamp down on human trafficking in Nebraska.

It creates a competitive grant program for groups that provide services to human trafficking victims, but doesn’t have any state funding with and grants to be awarded only “if public or private funding is made available for this purpose.”

The bill originally called for $500,000 a year from the state, but the provision was removed by an amendment that led Linehan to warn that without funding, the bill “will be hollow, creating a new state structure that would be incapable of following through on its plan.”

She later said she expects at least enough private donations to get the program running

Nebraska law gives people immunity from arrest if police conclude they are human trafficking victims. Linehan says it doesn’t address situations where people are too scared to admit it, but providing them with services such housing and mental health counseling as an alternative to arrest might.

Her bill sets up an advisory board and an office with the power to administer grants to set up programs like that.