LINCOLN – Governor Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation designating April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Nebraska during his daily press briefing on the State’s response to coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). He also announced temporary changes to the State’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), such as extending eligibility periods and providing emergency allotments to families for the months of April and May.
Stephanie Beasley, Director of the Division of Children and Family Services for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), joined the Governor at today’s press conference. She explained why children may be at higher risk of abuse during the pandemic. She also gave additional details on the State’s temporary changes to SNAP requirements and benefits.
Gov. Ricketts: Vigilance to Prevent Child Abuse
· An uptick in child abuse is one possible secondary effect of increased social distancing.
· Schools are significant reporters of child abuse. As kids learn virtually, teachers and school staff are not present to assess their well-being.
· We need all Nebraskans to look out for their family and friends, and to take care of one another.
· In Nebraska, everyone is a mandatory reporter of child abuse.
· If you need help, please call these numbers:
o Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline (800) 652-1999
o Nebraska Family Helpline (888) 866-8660
Stephanie Beasley: Vigilance to Prevent Child Abuse
· In the last year, calls from educators totaled 30% of the calls reporting suspected abuse and neglect.
· As children and youth are not in school, fewer eyes are on our children.
· Children and families are isolated, and this causes concern since stress and financial hardship are risk factors for abuse and neglect.
· Nebraskans are encouraged to check on their friends and families and to offer support.
Gov. Ricketts: SNAP Changes
· Today, I am announcing temporary changes to our SNAP program:
o Extending SNAP recertification periods by six months during the months of April and May.
o Providing emergency allotments to SNAP recipients, up to the maximum allotment per household, in April and May.
o Permitting able-bodied adults without dependents, who are subject to work requirements and are unable to meet these requirements, to be able to receive more than three months of SNAP benefits within a 36-month period.
o Waiving the requirement that DHHS do an interview for every case prior to eligibility determination for SNAP benefits.
o Extending eligibility periods for other financial assistance programs to align with the SNAP extension.
Stephanie Beasley: SNAP Changes
· SNAP applications increased 35% from February to March in Nebraska.
· Extending the SNAP recertification periods for the months of April and May will allow DHHS teammates to process these new applications.
· Emergency allotments provided to SNAP beneficiaries will be loaded directly onto recipients’ electronic benefits (EBT) cards.
· SNAP benefit recipients can use their EBT cards to purchase groceries online through vendors such as Walmart and Amazon. SNAP online delivery through Walmart is still being rolled out in Nebraska, and is currently available in Norfolk and South Sioux City.
· The State is focused on continuing to support Nebraskans impacted by COVID-19. We’re concerned about the financial impact of the crisis, and we believe our efforts will increase food security during the pandemic.
Gov. Ricketts: Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected
· The next several weeks will be key to slowing the spread of the coronavirus in Nebraska.
· Our statewide Directed Health Measure increases social distancing by...
o Imposing an enforceable 10-person limit on public gatherings.
o Prohibiting medical and dental elective surgeries and procedures.
o Requiring schools to operate without students through May 31, 2020.
o Cancelling all school-related extracurricular activities through May 31, 2020.
o Requiring restaurants and bars to close their dining areas and move to takeout, delivery, and/or curbside service only.
o Requiring individuals with a confirmed case of COVID-19, and individuals displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19, to home quarantine for at least 14 days.
· We need everyone’s help enforcing these rules.
Gov. Ricketts: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
· I want to thank Werner Enterprises for delivering in-demand medical supplies needed to fight COVD-19.
o Last week they delivered 500,000 gloves. Today, they delivered 97,000 N95 respirators. These supplies will be given to health workers statewide.
o We are blessed to have a company like this in our state with expertise in the logistics industry.
· In Scottsbluff, Home Depot donated masks, gloves, and other PPE to the Western Nebraska Veterans Home.
· In Lincoln, Highlands Animal Hospital donated PPE to Bryan Hospital.
· Thank you to Nebraskans for responding to our appeals for PPE.
Full video of today’s press briefing is available by clicking here.