Ricketts Unveils Spending Plan For Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts used his daily coronavirus update Wednesday to unveil his plan for using the $1.25-billion dollars in federal funds the state is getting for costs related to COVID-19.

The legislature already gave him the power to decide how to spend the money.

$166-million goes to Douglas County, which with Omaha is the only local government in the state with more than a half-million people, leaving Ricketts to divy up the rest.

$427-million is going to replenish the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund, which was used for most the payments made for coronavirus-related claims over the past 2 months.

Nearly $400 million goes to businesses, including $230 million to stabilize small businesses, and $100 million heads to livestock producers. Ricketts admitted the amount is likely well short of the losses suffered, but said it’s important to get help to those who need it.

Another $100-million goes to local governments other than Douglas County for COVID-19 related expenses such as personal protective equipment and sanitizers while $80-million is for similar spending at the state level.

Ricketts gave the counties until June 8 to fully reopen their courthouses if they want to share in that money. As of Wednesday afternoon, just 14 of Nebraska’s 93 counties have courthouses open to walk-in services – a group that includes Cheyenne, Garden, Kimball, and Morrill in the Panhandle.

Larry Dix, executive director of NACO – the Nebraska Association of County Officials, expects that number to double by Monday, a week before the deadline. Dawes and Sheridan are among the counties scheduled to reopen their courthouses on Monday.

Many small counties don’t have scheduled board meetings until after June 8th, so Dix is asking for extensions of some type. He says the counties might be able to schedule an emergency meeting before then, but isn’t sure it qualifies as defined in state law.

Democrats in Congress want to provide even more coronavirus aid to the states, but Ricketts is against the idea as things currently stand. He said it’s not needed in Nebraska and would add to the nation’s debt.

President Trump opposes letting state’s use some of their coronavirus money to replace lost tax revenue and avoid massive budget cuts. Ricketts hopes the president changes his position and favors legislation to make the change if necessary.

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