Pro-Kid Legislative Recap
The Nebraska Legislature wrapped up the 2019 session last Friday, adjourning for the year. Thank you to all who stood with us this year to ask our policymakers to put Nebraska kids first. Here’s a recap of some of our pro-kid policies this year:
Victories for Kids
Paid family and medical leave. For the first time ever, the Legislature debated a proposal to provide paid family and medical leave to Nebraska workers. LB 311, introduced by Senator Crawford, was prioritized by Senator Cavanaugh and received debate early in the session. A filibuster stalled the bill for the year, but our work to support parents and caregivers will continue.
College savings accounts for every Nebraska baby. Lawmakers approved the Meadowlark Act, which creates a college savings account with an initial seed deposit for every Nebraska baby starting in 2020. LB 610, which also includes an incentive match payment for college savings contributions made by low-income families, advanced unanimously and was signed by Governor Ricketts.
Addressing the school-to-prison pipeline. LB 390, introduced and prioritized by Senator Pansing Brooks, will reduce school-based arrests that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline, by ensuring law enforcement officers stationed in schools have roles and duties clearly defined. They will also receive training in adolescent development, responding to students with disabilities, and implicit bias. The bill advanced nearly unanimously and was signed by Governor Ricketts in April.
Allowing juveniles impacted by our youth justice system a clean slate through record sealing. LB 354, introduced by Senator Pansing Brooks, requires automatic sealing of juvenile records at the time probation or court orders are successfully completed and provides for a number of other clarifications and protections for young people who deserve a clean slate when exiting the juvenile system. The bill had broad support from system stakeholders, including youth, at its hearing and moved swiftly through debate on the floor. Governor Ricketts signed it into law in March.
2020 Session Preview
Although lawmakers adjourned early this session, there’s no shortage of work to be done ahead of next year. A number of carryover bills will be considered early next session, including:
Legalizing internet loansharking. LB 379, which legalizes internet payday lending in Nebraska without additional resources for oversight from state regulators, was advanced from the Banking Committee and may be debated by the full Legislature next year. Voices for Children strongly opposes this effort to legalize the harmful internet payday lending industry without the appropriate safeguards.
Affordable child care. Despite being one of the least-affordable states for child care in the nation, income eligibility for child care assistance in Nebraska is one of the lowest in the nation. LB 329, introduced by Senator Bolz, would help ensure that parents no longer have to choose between a small raise at work and their child care assistance by increasing income levels for child care assistance. The bill was advanced by the Health and Human Services Committee and may be considered next year.
Roll-out of the federal Family First Prevention and Safety Act (FFPSA). A bill to incorporate the new federal law into Nebraska statute stalled in committee, but we will continue to work with and monitor our state agency as they pursue a plan to implement the law in Nebraska by the end of this year. The FFPSA updates federal funding streams to emphasize prevention, treatment, and meeting children’s needs whenever possible in the home with evidence-based services.
Teachers’ use of physical intervention on students. In the final week of debate, Senator Groene’s LB 147 was pulled out of the education committee on a narrow vote. Because it has a priority designation, this bill is likely to come up early next session for debate. In the interim, we will work together with other partners who have concerns about the bill to ensure that students’ personal and educational rights are protected.
Your voice is your vote. When you change laws, you change lives, not just for one kid at a time, but for thousands of kids all at once. A sincere thanks to all who stood up for kids during the 2019 legislative session!
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New Federal Rule Would Increase Child Hunger in Nebraska
Last month, the Trump administration announced a new proposed rule that would take away food assistance from working families who are struggling to make ends meet. The proposed rule would make an estimated 3 million Americans ineligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
What the proposal does
If adopted, the rule would take away flexibility in how states administer the SNAP program by eliminating what’s called “broad-based categorical eligibility” (BBCE). This flexibility allows states to address the “cliff effect,” where low-income workers become ineligible for assistance when they receive a small raise at work or take on extra hours.
How the proposal affects Nebraskans
Under BBCE, states can simplify the SNAP application process and have the option to increase the income level at which families are eligible for SNAP, or increase the amount of savings that families can have while receiving SNAP. Nebraska has utilized BBCE to ensure that families aren’t punished for having a modest amount of rainy day savings by increasing the asset limit for program participants. The proposed rule would force Nebraska families to choose between food assistance and spending down their savings to $3,500.
Who receives SNAP in Nebraska
In 2017, SNAP protected 87,000 Nebraska children from hunger, and lifted 8,600 Nebraska families out of poverty. Working families shouldn’t have to choose between making ends meet and saving for a brighter future.
ACT NOW: Submit a comment opposing the proposal by September 23
Join us in standing against this harmful proposal to punish Nebraska’s children and families. The administration must consider public comments on the issue before it can be finalized, and will be accepting comments until September 23. You can submit a comment through this portal from our friends at the Food Research and Action Center.
For more information on broad-based categorical eligibility in SNAP, check out this report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.