Governor Ricketts request $58.6 million to fight COVID-19 outbreak

The funds would support DHHS and increase testing for the state.
Cdc Coronavirus

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is requesting $58.6 million dollars from the states reserve fund to expand our testing and support an increase in staffing capability.

“We want the department of health and human services to have the staff to fight this virus. Things like the epidemiology team so we have that team to be able to respond,” Gov. Ricketts said.

The money would get placed in the Governors Emergency fund to provide total transparency on where the money is going.

Until the funds get approved, the state will continue to follow it’s guidelines of only testing people who have traveled, are in bad health or are elderly.

For the general public, if you are presenting symptoms of COVID–19 and not getting tested, the Governor said he understands the frustration.

“We do want to get the capability to have people to get the test on a broad basis so that they can be confident they are testing negative for the virus and can go out in the public and do certain things,” he said.

When the capability to test every Nebraskan who needs one will happen, is still unknown.

For now, a state health official said staying home if you feel ill is probably your best bet for fighting the virus.

“At a certain point you have to ask yourself, why do we even test anymore? If you have the symptoms then maybe you should stay at home and get better,” Dr. Gary Anthone said.

You can find the full break down of the what the Governor plans to use the $58.6 million for below:


The Governor’s emergency funding request includes appropriations for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) for the initiatives listed below:

DHHS Public Health

·       Local Response Efforts – $38,156,700

o  This will provide additional funding for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other supplies to local jurisdictions, and support to local health departments for staffing, PPE, call centers, information technology needs including additional laptops/servers, and other essential expenditures.

·       DHHS Staffing – $4,004,000

o  Due to the size of the response and need to cover response needs, additional staffing expenditures are needed to cover costs for overtime and additional staff.  The areas that need immediate surge and sustained staffing are epidemiology, support services (administrative, communications, and data entry), emergency preparedness, and contracts for staffing in epidemiology and interpreters to meet the increased demands of the Division of Public Health.

·       Surge Staffing for Veterans Hospitals & DHHS Care Facilities – $13,000,000

o  Additional staffing expenditures are needed to cover costs for overtime and additional staff to maintain facility healthcare coverage needs.  The areas that need immediate surge and sustained staffing are veterans homes and DHHS care facilities including nursing, administrative, and other health care professionals.  This was calculated to cover a surge of 50% in additional staffing needs in the event that staff is unable to care for individuals at the facilities due to staff quarantine or isolation requirements.


·       COVID-19 Lab Testing – $515,000

o  This would augment the cost of the reagents, laboratory personnel, and equipment to conduct COVID-19 lab testing for the state.  This would include funds to purchase a combined sample extraction/detection robot for efficient and accurate serial processing of specimens, reducing staffing needs.  This would be to support increased efficiency and capacity of statewide testing through the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory.

·       Lab Equipment, Software Programming, and Personnel – $2,500,000

o  The equipment includes higher throughput automated equipment for microbiology and molecular diagnostics.  The increased testing throughput will be implemented on a fast track within the next 2-4 weeks but would support a prolonged outbreak, which is likely, as well as help prepare for future outbreaks.  All funds would be dedicated to support statewide needs.

·       UV Light Boxes – $100,000

o  The UV light boxes would provide tertiary cleaning of N95 respirators for reuse by healthcare workers.

·       Knowledge Center – $343,900

o  This system is used by coalitions and all stakeholders across the state to establish an interoperable platform for communication, bed tracking, resource sharing, and an overall interoperable platform.