Coronavirus Business Impact Surveyed; Ricketts to Change Exec Orders on Evictions, Public Meetings

May 19, 2020, 5:35 p.m. ·

Cathy Lang, Nebraska Business Development Center (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

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A newly-released survey shows the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic among Nebraska businesses. And Gov. Pete Ricketts announced changes in orders on evictions and public meetings.

The survey on business impacts was developed by state government, business groups, and the University of Nebraska. It was conducted April 15-24, before some health restrictions were loosened. And the report on it, published by the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Nebraska Business Development Center, says 87 percent of businesses who responded have been negatively affected by the pandemic. Cathy Lang, director of the Center, said “The impact is vast, touching every part of Nebraska and every industry in Nebraska.”

To read the report, click here.

Businesses reporting the most negative impact were arts, entertainment and recreation, followed by health care and social assistance, educational services, and accommodation and food services. But Lang said there were some bright spots.

“Nebraska businesses and nonprofit organizations are actively working to maintain their employees and the hours of those employees. We are very encouraged by this response and we think it is very telling for Nebraska. Let’s just say that our businesses and organizations are doing all they can to keep the economy of Nebraska going,” she said.

Still, businesses responding to the survey said the pandemic had negatively affected employment for 35 percent of their employees. And the state’s Labor Department has reported more than 115,000 new claims for unemployment benefits since late March. Lang said a new survey would be conducted in June.

Also at his news conference, Ricketts announced two of his executive orders issued during the pandemic would be allowed to expire. One of them had suspended a requirement for quick court hearings on eviction notices. Ricketts cited the availability of unemployment benefits and concern for renters as reasons for the change.

“Given that the pandemic unemployment assistance out there is $600 a week and that we are catching up – we cleared 2/3 of the backlog we had from that first week of April, and all the other resources that are out there available, we were concerned that we didn’t want renters to fall too far behind on the rent because the further you fall behind the harder it’s going to be to catch that up,” Ricketts said.

The executive order on evictions will expire at the end of May.

Ricketts said he would extend another executive order, allowing local governments to conduct meetings by teleconference, so long as the public can dial in. But the extension will be limited.

“We will be extending that through the month of June. However I want to let everybody know that it will not be extended beyond that. So those government entities that are using that right now with regard to their meetings are going to need to be thinking about, over the course of the next six weeks or so, how they are going to change that going forward in July,” he said.