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Web Platform Shares Struggling Nebraskans' Stories with Lawmakers

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Nebraskans who lost jobs through no fault of their own because of the coronavirus pandemic are posting their stories at 'essentialnebraska.com.' (Coalition for a Strong Nebraska)
Nebraskans who lost jobs through no fault of their own because of the coronavirus pandemic are posting their stories at 'essentialnebraska.com.' (Coalition for a Strong Nebraska)
 By Eric Galatas - Producer, Contact
January 7, 2021

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska's 107th Legislature kicked off yesterday, and a coalition of some 100 nonprofits have launched a new online portal to connect lawmakers with Nebraskans experiencing unprecedented economic hardship in the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Laurie Ponce Lage, director of Coalition for a Strong Nebraska, said the goal is to help lawmakers realize the scope of the challenges facing families struggling to meet their basic needs.

"People are getting evicted in record numbers," Ponce Lage observed. "People are in food lines in record numbers. Your neighbors, people around you that you probably don't even know, are still struggling."

Nebraskans who lost jobs through no fault of their own are posting their stories at essentialnebraska.com.

Ponce Lage noted some are single mothers who were able to keep their heads above water with initial federal CARES ACT support, but after burning through their savings, now face the frightening prospect of sending kids to bed with empty stomachs and losing their homes.

Despite the recent passage of a new COVID relief package in Congress, Ponce Lage cautioned it remains uncertain how that aid will be distributed.

The Essential Nebraska project aims to collect data from every county in the state, which she hopes will help lawmakers get the right assistance to the right places.

"It's not just in urban parts of the state," Ponce Lage explained. "Their needs may be different, but we need to show senators what's happening in their own back yards, in their own districts, with their own neighbors."

Ponce Lage said she's hopeful Nebraska lawmakers will strengthen existing emergency-assistance programs, with a focus on housing, food and utilities.

She added policy solutions, such as child care and paid family medical leave so sick workers can stay home to protect public health, also should be considered.

Disclosure: Coalition for a Strong Nebraska contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Livable Wages/Working Families, Poverty Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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