Gov. Ricketts Reiterates Importance of Social Distancing, Overviews Programs to Aid Businesses, & Announces Guidance for Faith-Based Organizations

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Gov. Ricketts Reiterates Importance of Social Distancing, Overviews Programs to Aid Businesses, & Announces Guidance for Faith-Based Organizations

Gov. Ricketts reviews Google data on social mobility in Nebraska at today’s press briefing.

Gov. Ricketts reviews Google data on social mobility in Nebraska at today’s press briefing.

Gov. Ricketts reviews Google data on social mobility in Nebraska at today’s press briefing.

Gov. Ricketts reviews Google data on social mobility in Nebraska at today’s press briefing.

Watch the video by clicking here.

LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts reinforced the importance of social distancing during his daily coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic response briefing. Dr. James Lawler, infectious diseases expert and director of the Global Center for Health Security at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), joined the Governor to discuss Nebraska’s social distancing strategy.

The Governor also highlighted federal programs available to Nebraska businesses as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Nebraska Department of Economic Development Director Tony Goins provided additional details on federal resources available to businesses. Leon Milobar, District Director for the Nebraska District Office of the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA), also spoke about SBA loans available to businesses affected by the pandemic.

With Passover and Easter approaching, Gov. Ricketts also shared guidance for faith-based communities as they practice social distancing and support public health efforts.

Gov. Ricketts: Social Distancing

  • Nebraskans need to further limit social interactions. They should work, go home, and shop once a week.
  • People should not only follow the 10-person rule, but also minimize any other social interactions.
  • Google has released data on social mobility in Nebraska.
    • There has been a 34% decline in visits to retailers and restaurants, an 18% decline in visits to transit stations, and a 24% decrease in hours spent in the workplace.
    • Meanwhile, there has been an 8% increase in hours spent in residential areas. This indicates that people are spending more time at home.
    • There has been a 109% increase in visits to parks.
      • Walking outside is safe, but people must be socially distanced.
      • People can walk their animal or get fresh air as long as they maintain social distancing.
      • People should not play on playgrounds or participate in group sports at a park.

Dr. Lawler: Social Distancing

  • We’re still very early in this unprecedented event. If the pandemic were a baseball game, we’d only be in the second inning.
  • We’re going to see more COVID-19 cases, and, unfortunately, more fatalities in the weeks ahead.
  • While we’re increasing our testing capacity, we need more information to understand how well our interventions have been working.
  • The goal is to preserve the state’s health system so that Nebraskans can get care—whether for COVID-19 or other medical needs.
  • The private sector, academic community, and government have shown inspiring partnership in their work together to counteract the virus.

Director Goins: CARES Act Programs for Small Businesses

  • At the state and federal level, leaders are working hard to provide relief to businesses—whether big, small, or self-employed.
  • Payroll Tax Deferment
    • Delays payment of employer payroll taxes (Social Security) between now and Jan. 1, 2021.
  • Employee Retention Credit
    • The credit is available to employers fully or partially shut down by government order due to the pandemic.
    • It’s also available to businesses that have seen a 50% drop, year-over-year, in quarterly gross receipts.
    • It’s a refundable tax credit of 50% of the qualifying wages—including health plan expenses—paid by the employer up to $10,000 per teammate.
  • Paycheck Protection Loans
    • Can be taken out in the amount equivalent to two months of a business’ average payroll (up to $10 million).
    • The loan may be fully forgiven (converted into a grant) if it’s used to pay for…
      • Payroll costs
      • Rent or mortgage interest
      • Utilities
    • Loan payments will be deferred six months.
    • The loan has a fixed rate of 1.0%, and a term of 2 years.
    • There’s no requirement to look for credit elsewhere before applying for Paycheck Protection Program loans.
    • There’s also no need to put up collateral or make personal guarantees for the loans.
    • Businesses are encouraged to contact their current bank as the first step to apply.
    • Small businesses and sole proprietors can begin applying today. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply beginning on April 10.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans
    • Available to small businesses and non-profits (including faith-based) with fewer than 500 employees.
    • Provides up to $2 million in a working capital loan.
    • Has long-term repayment of up to 30 years.
    • Offers a low interest rate of 3.75% (2.75% non-profits).
    • Defers payments up to one year.
    • As a result of the CARES Act, businesses can request an emergency grant of $10,000 when applying for the loan.
    • This grant may be available even if the loan application is declined.
    • The SBA is working to provide the grant within 3 days of receiving applications.
    • The grant can be used to meet payroll, pay for sick leave, pay rent, and more.
    • The emergency grant does not need to be repaid.
    • Businesses can apply through www.sba.gov.

Director Milobar: SBA Loans for Businesses

  • Nebraska has 46,000 small businesses; 36,000 of these have 1-20 workers.
  • Community lenders are helping to spread the word about SBA loan programs to these businesses.
  • Ag producers are eligible to participate in SBA’s loan programs.
  • If a business has taken out a disaster loan associated with a previous incident (like the floods of 2019), it is still eligible to apply for a loan for this disaster.
  • Businesses cannot take out both an Economic Injury Disaster Loan and a Paycheck Protection Program Loan.
  • While small businesses are typically defined as those with less than 500 teammates; restaurants and hotel franchises may be eligible for SBA loans.
  • Businesses should visit www.sba.gov for info on SBA loans.

Gov. Ricketts: Guidance for Faith-Based Communities

  • The State has released new guidance today allowing churches to host drive-in services.
  • Nothing should be handed out to car passengers—or transferred between vehicles—before, during, or after the service.
    • For example, do not circulate an offering plate or the Eucharist or communion.
    • Email out your program, bulletin, and song lyrics to participants ahead of time.
  • The guidance is available by clicking here.

Gov. Ricketts: Other COVID-19 Topics

  • 1135 Waiver
    • Yesterday afternoon, the State received approval of its 1135 Waiver application for the Medicaid program. The application was submitted to the federal government as part of our response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Section 1135 is part of the Social Security Act that allows the federal government to waive certain federal laws in the event of an emergency to ensure health care services are able to continue throughout the emergency.
    • FAQ on the 1135 waiver can be found by clicking here.
  • Mental Health
    • The Surgeon General is reminding everyone to take care of their mental health during the pandemic.
    • If you need help, please reach out to family and friends.
      • If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, call 911, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or the Nebraska Family Helpline at (800) 866-8660.

Husker basketball coach Fred Hoiberg is urging Nebraskans to follow social distancing guidelines, practice good hygiene, and support public health directives. View his public announcement by clicking here.

Full video of today’s press briefing is available by clicking here.

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Media Contacts:
Taylor Gage, 402-471-1970
Justin Pinkerman, 402-471-1967

Governor’s Original Press Release