Community CARES grant applications open Monday; Nebraska Guard moving out of COVID-19 support role
Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Thursday afternoon during his update on the state's COVID-19 response that Nebraska National Guard would begin withdrawing from their support role with Test Nebraska.
National Guard units have been assisting with testing in several Nebraska cities, including Omaha, but will begin transitioning away from those duties next week, leaving COVID-19 testing sites in the hands of healthcare providers and hospitals, Ricketts said.
Ricketts still urged Nebraskans to sign up for Test Nebraska and said Thursday that the state has opened up restrictions for testing.
"Essentially, if you sign up for TestNebraska.com, you can go look to get scheduled," Ricketts said. "We don't have any more restrictions on prioritizing people."
Through the weekend, National Guard will continue with Test Nebraska testing in Omaha as well as Hastings, Imperial, North Platte, Seward, South Sioux City, and Springfield, he said. Next week, the state will transition COVID-19 testing from Guard personnel to hospitals, starting in Columbus, Kearney, Norfolk, West Point, and York.
The governor said the state's hospitalization rate is falling, even as others enter the hospital for non-COVID-19 reasons. Hospital capacity across the state is at 38% — 131 patients in hospitals, down from 149 two months ago — with 44% of ICU beds available, and 80% of ventilators available, he said.
Ricketts said the state has the lowest rate of hospitalizations — and the lowest unemployment rate, at 5.2% — in the country and credits Nebraskans' efforts to maintain proper social distancing.
"We've also been able to allow people to start returning back to a more normal life — that's why we've got the lowest unemployment rate," he said.
The state is preparing to distribute $85 million in grants, according to
, CEO of Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
Applications for the stabilization grants open to qualifying organizations on Monday at
Grants will be used to provide organizations with the things they need to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community, such as providing PPE at houses of worship, she said.
But that's only one example.
A portion of the state's CARES Act funds will also be made available for childcare — both at home and at childcare centers — and houses of worship in order to help them with PPE expenses and to afford disinfectant supplies.
The first grant, a $40 million stabilization grant, will be allocated to 501c3 and select provider organizations license with the state, Smith said. The second grant will see $43 million allocated to those organizations that assist with behavioral health in the community.
Nebraska health officials stressed the importance of resuming childhood vaccinations, which had been put on hold in the past few months as the state working to manage the spread of COVID-19.
Vaccinations can protect children from 14 serious illnesses, Dr. Gary Anthone, Nebraska's chief medical officer, said during Thursday's update.
Every child is recommended to continue to get vaccinations — even if they are late, and even during the pandemic, he said.
Ricketts noted during Thursday's update that Nebraska has once again been awarded the Silver Shovel by corporate niche magazine
. According to the
, it's the second consecutive year the state has received the award, which recognizes the state's efforts to recruit "high-value, job-creating investment projects."
Ricketts said his next COVID-19 briefing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, July 2.