20 state senators pressing Ricketts to extend emergency food assistance for Nebraskans

Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 5:46 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Pressure is mounting on Gov. Pete Ricketts to extend emergency food assistance as 20 state senators have written asking for answers as to why Nebraska is the only state yet to do so.

Meanwhile, demand for food amid the pandemic is taking another leap.

The line for fresh produce begins early at the Open Door Mission.

“There are so many families that have lost their jobs, or had more than one job and are only able to do one job now,” said Laurie Anderson, who was picking up a food box for herself and a few others.

“Within the pandemic times, this food helps for two weeks or one week,” said Nang Ra, who was also picking up food boxes filled with fresh produce.

Roughly 2,000 federally-backed Farmers to Families food boxes will be handed out in a single day. It’s a level of demand they’ve become quite familiar with at the Together food pantry, where last week they saw their busiest ever.

“There probably is some level of correlation between the extra benefits ending and the spike we’re seeing,” said Mike Hornacek, president and CEO of Together.

In March, the federal government loosened restrictions on SNAP benefits, making way for states to dole out the maximum amount to more people, but that came to an end in July.

“You can see if you look at our data," Hornacek said. “You can see between early August and now, it’s slowly escalated week by week."

During Ricketts' tour of the Food Bank for the Heartland last week, 6 News asked why he hasn’t extended emergency SNAP benefits.

“I think it’s part of the step, especially here in Nebraska with our low unemployment rate relative to the country, in getting people back to a normal life,” Ricketts said last week.

But those trying to keep people fed tell 6 News there’s still a need now.

“We had a thousand households and that translates to roughly 4,200 people come through our pantry last week and that doesn’t happen if people aren’t in need and aren’t going hungry.”

In a statement, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services received a statement said they are moving forward with an application to extend P-EBT, which provides food assistance to children out of school. The department also noted they don’t plan to extend additional SNAP benefits at this time.

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