With a deadline looming this week, Nebraska announced that it would make available an extra $300 per week in jobless benefits offered by the federal government and established though an executive order by President Donald Trump.
South Dakota is the only state to have declined the assistance, but Nebraska was the last state in nation to have made a decision.
While we are pleased with the state’s decision, there should be no hesitancy in the state offering its residents whatever COVID-related assistance the federal government offers. After all, Nebraskans – like everyone else in the country – will be paying for it now or in the future.
Nebraska is an outlier in another area, too. It’s the only state in the nation that didn’t extend emergency supplemental food assistance beyond July. Forty-nine other states approved extending maximum SNAP benefits through August, and 13 have applied to do so through September.
Khalilah LeGrand, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, told the Omaha World-Herald, “State programs will continue to return to their typical operations as we continue to return to a greater place of normalcy and work to get Nebraska growing. We encourage all residents who can and are able to get back to work to do so.”
She said the number of people needing assistance was falling as directed health measures were being eased and more people were returning to work.
But not everyone is returning to work. And life isn’t normal for everyone. If the number of people needing assistance is falling, so is the cost of providing that assistance. More than half of SNAP recipients don’t receive the maximum benefit and could potentially be helped by an extension.
Nebraskans are a self-reliant people. According to a 2019 Rockefeller Institute of Government study, there are 10 states in the U.S. that pay more in federal taxes than they get back. Nebraska is one of them, getting back 98 cents for every federal tax dollar we put in.
It’s certainly no competition, and there have been times when, through disasters and downturns, Nebraska has gotten more than its share of federal money.
But in this time of challenge, not taking advantage of federal programs that can help Nebraskans seems foolhardy. We applaud the extension of jobless benefits and urge a reconsideration of the extension of SNAP benefits.
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