Ricketts discusses unemployment, meat plant shutdowns & more

Posted at 2:03 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 19:30:50-04

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — On Thursday, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and others held the state's daily coronavirus briefing. Topics included handling Nebraska unemployment claims, agriculture, outbreaks in communities with meatpacking plants and food assistance for families with children under five years of age.

When it comes to unemployment, Ricketts said the number of weekly claims is down from about 16,000 to around 12,000. To handle the continued increase, about 100 people have been added to department that processes claims. Ricketts also said software which is designed to handle Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims is up and running and should help with people who are still waiting for their benefits to begin. Ricketts said people who previously applied for standard unemployment benefits will not need to apply again and that they should be, barring possible glitches in the new software, be included in claims being looked at by the department handling them.

Some have voiced concerns about unemployment benefits and a $600 weekly bonus being added on during the pandemic in regards to whether it could lead to people not wanting to go back to work, opting to remain unemployed. Ricketts said that will not work. If someone is called back to work or they refuse a job offer, they will no longer receive benefits. Searching for jobs while claiming unemployment and providing proof of doing so is required to continue benefits.

When Ricketts was asked if he has plans to shut down meat processing plants, such as those in Hall and Dakota counties where surges in cases have been documented, he said he has no plans to do so and believes trying to would result in civil unrest.

Continuing along those lines, Nebraska Chief Medical Officer Gary Anthone said hospitals in areas with meat processing plants that are seeing a jump in cases are keeping up with the number of people who are sick. Some patients are being moved to other area hospitals to balance the load.

When it comes agriculture, Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Steve Wellman said task forces are being developed to help farmers mitigate exposure risks to those who work in their fields.

Wellman also said there are two United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants headed to the state. Roughly $16 billion worth of aid will be available for farmers and about $3 billion will be available for purchasing through USDA agriculture services. The details for both grants are still in the the planning stages.

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services representative Karen Vincent took time to remind families with children that help is available in the form of food and education services through the Nebraska Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Vincent says more families will likely be eligible. To see if you qualify and to get tips on breastfeeding, visit their website.

You can watch the briefing below:

You can find all our coronavirus coverage here.

Coronavirus Resources and Information

Johns Hopkins global coronavirus tracker