Efforts underway to bypass Nebraska Governor’s rejection of EBT funds, as public and senators seek alternative solutions

ai express – In December, Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen made the choice to decline $18 million in federal funds intended for feeding children during school closures. However, some state senators are now working to find a way to bypass this decision. Senator Jen Day of Omaha has raised the issue once again in the Nebraska Legislature.

The 2024 Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (S-EBT) program for children originated as a response to the aid provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite advocates urging the governor to reconsider, Pillen remained steadfast in his refusal to accept the funds.

Governor, in a statement, expressed that COVID-19 has come to an end and the people of Nebraska anticipate the conclusion of government relief programs introduced during the pandemic.

Despite Pillen’s rejection of the money for Nebraska, some state senators are exploring an alternative route to obtain it. They are looking to secure funding through the legislative process with the introduction of LB 952.

LB 952 mandates that the Department of Health and Human Services should actively choose to receive $18 million in federal funding to provide meals for children throughout the summer. Under this program, each eligible child would receive $40 per month, benefiting over 150,000 children.

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According to Sen. Jen Day in Thursday’s testimony, the state would need to cover half of the administrative costs. In the first year, this is estimated to be around $420,000. However, Sen. Day believes that this investment would be worthwhile.

“Sen. Day expressed concern over the increasing cost of food, particularly for low-income Nebraskans, stating that it is becoming more and more burdensome.”

After Sen. Day provided his introductory testimony, supporters of the bill took the floor.

Keri Smith, a resident of Omaha, is not only a dedicated long-term caregiver but also a single mother to her 14-year-old son. Her son is eligible for free meals throughout the year.

According to Smith, the summer months pose a significant challenge as they have to manage without the support of school meals.

During the hearing, there was a wide range of perspectives presented.

Tom Venzor from the Nebraska Catholic Conference expressed his support, emphasizing their commitment to the right to life for every individual. He firmly believes that all people should have access to essential rights, including both material and spiritual support, such as the right to food.

Fifteen Democrats and four Republicans are currently sponsoring the bill, showing that some perspectives transcend party lines. Republican Senator Raymond Aguilar of Grand Island has designated LB952 as his priority bill.

Several individuals who provided testimony shared their personal experiences with food insecurity or assisting members of their community who struggle to access food.

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During the Health and Human Services Committee hearing, the Act faced minimal opposition. Out of the individuals who expressed their opinions online, 153 were in favor of the act, while only four were against it. Additionally, one individual remained neutral on the matter.

Sen. Day expressed concern about the high levels of food insecurity in a leading agricultural state like ours. He emphasized that this situation reflects a failure to achieve a common objective, which is something that the committee members are committed to addressing.

Day expressed her confidence in the USDA’s willingness to waive the missed deadline by Governor Pillen if the bill is passed. Even if the bill is passed, there is still a possibility of the governor vetoing it. However, in order to override the veto, thirty state senators would be required.

According to Pillen, families have an alternative to using S-EBT. They can opt for the Summer Food Service Program, which offers food at different locations throughout the summer.

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