March 2021
The Legislature began full-day debate this month, focusing primarily on senator, committee and Speaker priority bills. Each senator is allowed one priority bill, each committee two priority bills and the Speaker names 25 priority bills.

Senators are required to pass a two-year budget the first session of each biennium. The Appropriations Committee is expected to bring its FY21-22/FY22-23 budget to the floor soon, followed by debate by the full Legislature. Factoring into budget decisions is news that the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board recently increased revenue projections for the current fiscal year by $204 million and by $165 million for the next fiscal year.

LB351 advances
Nebraska's working parents rely on quality child care, and LB351, introduced by State Senator Lou Ann Linehan, would help child care providers grow their businesses to better meet the needs of children and working parents in their communities. Allowing providers to retain their quality rating in Step Up to Quality if they change their license type removes an unnecessary barrier to growth, making it easier for providers to expand their businesses and serve more children.

The Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee advanced LB351 to the floor on a unanimous vote and the full body advanced it to Final Reading by a voice vote March 22. Read more on LB351

LB137, introduced by State Senator Tony Vargas, would require child care providers to use the Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Record System (NECPRS) to track licensing credentials, training and other professional information. The bill came out of committee unanimously with a single amendment that gives early childhood professionals until June 2023 to enter their information into NECPRS. An effort to attach the bill to LB351 on the floor as an amendment was not agreed to and LB137 remains on General File as a standalone bill. Using NECPRS would streamline the work of maintaining and checking professional records for both providers and state agency personnel. Read more on LB137

FFN tracks early childhood bills on our website's Nebraska Legislation page. Click on each bill to learn more, including sponsor, its intent, current status and to read FFN testimony, policy briefs and blog posts. To see all bills we're following, scroll to the bottom of the page, select 2021 on the left and Check All in the right column and click Search. We update bill information daily.

The latest federal COVID-19 relief package, the American Rescue Plan Act, includes an estimated $233 million to stabilize Nebraska's child care industry and expands the Child Care Tax Credit among other measures. FFN's newest policy brief outlines how the state's early childhood infrastructure may benefit from the new funds, including relevant provisions involving health insurance and financial and nutrition assistance. Read more

To assist child care providers who have been hard hit by the pandemic, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services will pay for fingerprinting and processing fees for providers and license-exempt providers through Sept. 30, 2021. Costs for staff, volunteers and household members in licensed child care programs will also be covered. Read more

Mark your calendars! The 4th annual Thriving Children, Families, and Communities Conference is set for Sept. 27. FFN co-sponsors this free, virtual event that gives Nebraskans an opportunity to connect over the importance of high-quality early childhood education and its link to healthy communities. We look forward to learning from each other as we share ideas, research, obstacles and success stories. Watch for registration information coming soon.

Did you receive funds through the Paycheck Protection Program or the small business stabilization grant program? Or CARES Act funding through the child care stabilization program to remain open or re-open your child care business? We answer a few of the most common questions providers ask about the taxable status of state and federal COVID-19 relief funds. Read more
If you missed the recent webinar announcing Council for a Strong America's (CSA) new report on child care availability in rural Nebraska, you can view the recorded event online. The webinar, co-hosted by FFN and CSA, featured NebraskaLand Bank CEO Mike Jacobson (North Platte), Buffalo County Sheriff Neil Miller, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Randolph Scott and Marti Beard with Communities for Kids. Don't miss CSA's compelling new video that captures insights of Nebraska early childhood professionals and community leaders on how quality child care is connected to economic growth, public safety and quality of life in Greater Nebraska.

Our child care system was broken long before the COVID-19 pandemic. The true cost of providing quality early care and learning is far beyond what the market can bear, making the whole system unstable. This short video takes a common-sense look at the situation, including how the pandemic has devastated child care and why it's an "everyday crisis for working families."

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said recently it is critical to help workers who have been hurt by the economic fallout from the pandemic. He said women have been disproportionately displaced from their jobs because they took on child care responsibilities when schools closed, and affordable child care could help women regain a foothold in the labor market. Read more

"Nebraska will be dealing with the effects of the pandemic long after the health threat has been alleviated. A report released by the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee shows the extent of the challenges ahead for the state in shoring up its child care system. ...The report shows how crucial it is that our state government find ways to ensure that child care is available throughout Nebraska for our future." Read more

Congratulations McCook on being recognized for your commitment to economic growth and fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in your community! Among McCook's achievements: "Upon hearing reports from multiple businesses about employees struggling with child care options, the City sprang into action with programs that have since secured close to 60 new child care slots." Read more
Quality child care sets children—particularly toddlers—up for future learning and lasting success. It is key to our economic recovery now and building the workforce of our future. Visit today.
For information on coronavirus in Nebraska or to take a health assessment survey, visit Test Nebraska. See the Nebraska Dept. of Health and Human Services website for a state overview, guidance documents, Directed Health Measures and many additional resources.