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Gov. Ricketts ends $300 federal jobless benefit, launches ‘Reconnect Nebraska’

The governor said Monday’s update would be his final COVID-19 response news conference.
Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 9:59 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Gov. Pete Ricketts announced during his last COVID-19 press conference that he had signed an executive order to reinstate regulations that had been suspended during the pandemic (a new Nebraska law allows the sale of ready-made cocktails). The governor also said he had filed paperwork with the federal government to end the $300 federal COVID-19 benefit on June 19, although Nebraskans who filed for unemployment last week will receive the extra $300.

“We are discontinuing that because we’re returning to normal,” he said. “And we see that Nebraska has the lowest unemployment rate, we averaged the lowest unemployment rate throughout 2020. We have about 39,000 job openings out there right now on our Nebraska Works website, we’ve got about 15,000 people receiving benefits. So we’ve got more than two jobs for every one person on there.”

Since March 6, 2020, when the state recorded its first case of COVID-19, “Nebraskans did what they always do: The take care of their neighbors. They do the right thing,” Ricketts said. But now was a time to “return to normalcy. Let’s start reconnecting with things that made us ‘The Good Life.’”

As of Monday, the governor said, the state had 73 hospitalizations for COVID-19. Ricketts credited that to the high number of vaccinations in the state. He said 53% of eligible residents were fully recovered, and over 60%, or 975, 000 eligible Nebraskans, had received at least one shot. Ricketts is ending the state’s directed health measures overnight Monday but he encouraged all eligible Nebraskans to get vaccinated.

He also announced the return of the state’s passport program that runs May 1 through the end of September. The Nebraska Passport encourages residents to visit tourist spots throughout the state. Ricketts also reiterated his strong opposition to a vaccine passport.

“Nebraska passport good, vaccine passport bad,” he said.

Ricketts and Nebraska First Lady Susanne Shore also launched the “Reconnect Nebraska” initiative, urging Nebraskans to reconnect with people and activities they had given up during the pandemic.

Shore thanked health providers, nonprofits, and community leaders “whose unwavering work got us to where we are today.” She encouraged residents to visit the Memorial Wall online and read the stories there, and to also check the website for volunteer opportunities. Organizations also can register NEImpact.org.

Watch Monday’s news conference

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