Nebraska senators consider expanding three government assistance programs

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Up for discussion at the State Capitol on Thursday was child care assistance, food benefits and an increase in funding for people with disabilities.

First up is Legislative Bill 35, a bill that seeks to expand eligibility for child care subsidies through 2026.

The money would come from the federal Childcare and Development Fund. It would extend eligibility, allowing people at 185% of the poverty line to qualify.

“If we’re serious about wanting people to work, wanting people to study, we have to have child care,” said James Goddard, senior program director of Nebraska Appleseed.

The hearing concluded with minimal opposition: One person wrote a letter to the committee to oppose the bill.

Now to Legislative Bill 84, which deals with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

During the height of COVID-19, a change was made so more people could qualify. The household income requirement will go back to the pre-COVID threshold: around 130% of the poverty level.

This bill would keep the income requirement at 160%.

A volunteer representative for AARP Nebraska, June Ryan, said for older people on a fixed income, not having these benefits is dire.

“There are only so many dollars in the budget, and when we don’t have a nutritious diet, we’re much more apt to develop medical problems and stay longer in the hospital,” she said.

Steve Green of the Opportunity Solutions Project submitted a presentation to the committee opposing LB 84.

“Nebraska should focus on leveraging state resources to help people on SNAP career ladder out of poverty and towards self-sufficiency,” he said.

The final proposal is Legislative Bill 357.

The Disabled Persons and Family Support Credit helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by providing $300 a month for life expenses.

If the bill passes, that amount would double.

The executive director of Arc Nebraska said increasing these funds helps people with disabilities stay in their homes and out of specialized care that often costs more.

“Institutional care in Nebraska is $230,000 per year, per person, whereas community-based services are far cheaper,” Edison McDonald said. “This will only cost a couple hundred bucks a month. Those folks can stay in their community, which provides a better quality of life, ensures fuller access to our society, and it’s cost effective.”

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