This is the legislative update for June 28, 2021. View all updates here.
- Nebraska’s State of Emergency is set to expire.
- The American Rescue Act child tax credit will go into effect mid-July.
- Children’s is continuing to monitor the advancement of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) Reauthorization of 2021.
- Children’s is working with stakeholder groups on allocating funds from the American Rescue Plan to be invested in children.
The June 28, 2021 legislative update includes highlights from both federal and state legislatures.
Nebraska State of Emergency Update
On Monday, Governor Pete Ricketts (R-NE) announced that he is allowing Nebraska’s State of Emergency to expire on June 30 at 11:59 p.m. The State of Emergency went into effect on March 11, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Governor, all Executive Orders (EOs) in place will expire 30 days after the state of emergency is lifted (July 30, 2021). However, there are three EOst that he Governor is maintaining through midnight on August 27, 2021.
Per Children’s request:
1. EO 20-12: Relief for Hospitals and Health Care Facilities and Expanded Use of Telehealth Services
- This EO will allow telehealth flexibilities that were advanced through:
- LB400, including originating site, verbal consent, audio-only for behavioral health
- LB487, parity for reimbursement of behavioral health services provided via telehealth (Translation: Mandates that fully-insured private plans reimburse and cover telehealth services equally to how they would do so for in-person visits).
- This EO also supports hospitals to keep COVID-19-positive patients isolated from other patients by flexibly to use beds that are not licensed for critical care
Department of Labor EO’s that were also maintained:
Ending the Test Nebraska Contract
Governor Ricketts is ending the Test Nebraska contract on July 31. He strongly encourages schools to return to normal this fall, without masks or vaccine requirements.
Child Tax Credit
A provision of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will go into effect mid-July: providing families with a modified gross income of $75,000 a monthly $300 per child tax credit through December 2021.
The bill allows parents to get monthly checks over the second half of this year as an advance payment on their 2021 child tax credit.
Here is what you need to know about how this provision works:
- You can either claim 100% of your 2021 child tax credit on your taxes when you do your 2021 taxes (April 2022), or you can get 50% of that money now in cash and claim the other 50% on your taxes later.
- Under the cash payment program, you get six monthly payments from the US Treasury via direct deposit, starting July 15 and running through December 2021.
- For example, if you qualify for a $3,000 child tax credit, you could get six $250 payments between July and December (for a total of $1,500) and then claim the remaining $1,500 on your tax return.
- The payments will be made on the 15th of each month, unless the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday. They will be made via direct deposit, paper check, or debit card.
- The IRS will use your most recent tax return to determine whether you qualify for the child tax credit — to see how old the qualifying children will be —to know how much to send you each month.
- Low-income families who may not normally file a tax return can use the IRS’ non-filers sign-up tool to register for the monthly advance child tax credit payments.
- If you’d rather claim 100% of your child tax credit at the end of the year, you can opt out of the periodic payment program. The US Treasury is setting up an online portal to complete the opt out process.
- The portal will also be the place to tell the IRS about things that affect the amount of your payment, such as a change in the number of kids, marital status, or income.
To learn more to support our patients and families, visit the Child Tax Credit 2021: Advance Payments FAQs & Calculator.
Earlier this month, Children’s monitored the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee hearing where Senators advanced the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) Reauthorization of 2021 (S. 1927).
CAPTA was last reauthorized in 2010, but the introducing senators — Murray (D-WA) and Burr (R-NC) — hope to strengthen the bill by:
- Reinforcing prevention of child abuse and neglect
- Improving interagency coordination
- Providing funding to states to administer family support services and child welfare programs
In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Murray expressed her interest in reducing unnecessary child neglect investigations due to poverty or housing status. She stressed the importance of getting families the support they need — allowing more time and resources to be spent on children living at risk.
The bill also seeks to improve data collection to understand the scope of the child abuse problem nationally and identify barriers to adoption.
The House reauthorization bill — the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (H.R.485) — passed the House in March. It is not yet known when the Senate will take on a vote for reauthorization, but we continue to monitor the legislation.
Children’s has been working closely with Chairman of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee John Arch (R-Dist. 14, Ralston) on the St. Francis Oversight Committee (put forward by LR29).
In a meeting last week with his office, Senator Arch announced a survey that will be sent to stakeholders on July 6 to begin the oversight committee’s investigation into concerns with the wellbeing of children in foster care. Dr. Suzanne Haney and others will be pivotal for Children’s to effectively put into record our findings and concerns for both the children who we see in our foster care clinic and for those we currently do not serve.
August 28 is when all bills that were passed will become effective — unless they were passed with an emergency clause, allowing them to go into effect sooner.
LB108, which expanded the number of Nebraskans who can qualify for food aid from 130% to 165% of the federal poverty level through 2023, was designated to be effective immediately. However, due to upgrades to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)’s application software, there has been a delay. We anticipate that the extension of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will be available by July 11. Once effective, this expansion will have a profound impact on Nebraska families, adding an estimated 58,855 households to the pool of eligible people.
American Rescue Plan
Children’s continues to work with numerous stakeholder groups at both the state and federal levels to create a strategic plan for using the funds made available through the American Rescue Plan Act.
As previously reported, Nebraska will receive $976 million through the State Fiscal Recovery Fund and $128 million through a Capital Projects fund with constraints. This extraordinary funding opportunity is only 29% of the overall $3.6 billion available to the State to recover the economy after the pandemic.
We are working with other stakeholders and the State to determine and coordinate opportunities to advocate together for these one-time financial resources to be invested in children across the state.
While these funds are a great opportunity, we are making sure that our request to the state shows long-term sustainability. The funds from the American Rescue Plan are only a one-time offering. Every dollar must be spent by 2026. This means that if we want to continue the work we’ve been able to start due to American Rescue Plan funds, it will need to be funded by Nebraska’s General Fund, which is often limited to a couple million dollars of excess funds each year.
In the coming months, Governor Ricketts will prepare a budget proposal to outline his priorities for the funds. From there, a public hearing will be held on LR 178. LR 178 is a shell bill (Translation: A bill that doesn’t have substantive language but is moved through the legislation-passing process for later use) designed by the Appropriations Committee to hold hearings to get input on priorities for these federal funds.
We anticipate these hearings will not begin until after the Special Redistricting Session, which is tentatively scheduled for late September.
(Sources: CHA, Governor Ricketts, Congress.gov, NHA, DHHS)