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Ricketts extends tax filing deadline, praises crowd compliance
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Ricketts extends tax filing deadline, praises crowd compliance

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Virus Outbreak Nebraska

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks during a news conference in Lincoln on March 16, where he outlined the latest steps taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Monday that Nebraska's state income tax filing deadline would be moved from April 15 to July 15, matching the three-month federal extension already granted by the Internal Revenue Service.

But the governor urged Nebraskans who have not been significantly impacted by the economic fallout resulting from the spread of the coronavirus to try to meet the traditional deadline to help ensure the healthy cash flow that's needed to support state government.

In a wide-ranging discussion during what has become a coronavirus briefing by the governor every weekday, Ricketts said:

* The state is looking for quarantine space to house people infected by the virus in case that might be necessary.

* There are no plans to move beyond the 10-person limit for public gatherings; that is "the most restrictive measure we are anticipating."

"Never did we discuss a shelter-in-place strategy," he added. "For our state, that is not necessary."

* Expanded testing for the virus is now underway, but testing will be directed at "the highest priority cases."

* Rumors that the state is considering calling the Nebraska National Guard into active duty to impose martial law are bogus.

Todd Becker, CEO of Green Plains Ethanol, joined the governor at the briefing to announce that his company will donate industrial alcohol that it produces at its York plant to be transformed into hand sanitizer during the current emergency that has resulted in a reduction in gasoline demand.

The industrial alcohol will be shipped to the Department of Correctional Services for processing, he said.  

"Our employees and our company are proud to help," Becker said. 

Ricketts said he believes Nebraskans have responded to the challenge and "slowed the spread of the virus" in the state by complying with the 10-person gathering rule.

"We anticipated 30% compliance," the governor said. Instead, he said, there has been "almost universal compliance."

"I can't tell you when we get back to normal," Ricketts said, "but we will get through this."

The governor's afternoon briefing came on a surreal day at the Capitol when the Legislature met in a protected cocoon with doors closed and no access to the floor of the legislative chamber in order to process emergency legislation appropriating $83.6 million to battle the virus.

That included $25 million that was added to the governor's request for funding and will be held in reserve for unanticipated needs.

"I did not ask for that," Ricketts said. "The Legislature decided that would be prudent (and it provides) more cushion for us to work with.

"This is going to be a tough time for everybody," the governor said, a time when Nebraskans should try to help one another and support small businesses.

Under direction from the state, bars and restaurants in the Omaha area have moved to take-out, drive-thru and delivery service only.

"If you're an employer thinking long-term," Ricketts said, "you (may want to) figure out ways to hold on to your workforce."

And landlords ought to take into consideration the financial stress that some Nebraskans may be encountering when it's time to pay the monthly rent, he said.

It may be a time for "a moratorium on evictions," Ricketts suggested.

"It's a public emergency ... you can't be throwing people out on the street," he said.

"I want to thank every Nebraskan who has been working to slow the spread of the coronavirus," the governor said. "Nebraskans have stepped up to meet that challenge."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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