Ricketts Discusses Vaccines for Long-Term Care, CARES Audit, Property Taxes

Dec. 18, 2020, 1:14 p.m. ·

Gov. Pete Ricketts discusses vaccinations Friday (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

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Gov. Pete Ricketts said Friday Nebraska’s getting ready to begin vaccinating staff and residents in long-term care facilities against COVID-19. And the governor addressed questions raised by an audit of CARES Act payments, as well as property tax issues.

There’s been confusion nationwide about when states will receive Pfizer vaccines, and how much. Friday, Ricketts gave an update.

“We’ve now been informed that we will receive an allocation of 11,900 Pfizer vaccines next week. What we’re going to do with those is bank them; we’re supposed to get another 11,900 the following week. So we’ll put those two together and start our long-term care vaccination program through the pharmacies that the federal government has contracted with,” Ricketts said.

The governor said that would begin the week of Dec. 28. And, he said, the state could receive 32,000 doses of Moderna vaccine next week, which could also be used in long-term care facilities.

Meanwhile, first lady Susanne Shore said the next three days will be designated the “Weekend of Remembrance and Honor,” in memory of those lost to the pandemic. Shore urged people to reach out.

“I ask that each of us reach out to anyone we know who has lost someone recently, and just let them know that you’re thinking of them. This is the biggest gift that we can give right now. This is a prime opportunity to make a connection with one another, especially during this important time when we’re having to isolate and limit our encounters with each other,” Shore said.

Shore also urged people to volunteer or make charitable donations. And Ricketts proclaimed Sunday a day of prayer for relief from the pandemic and strength to endure.

On another subject, Ricketts disagreed with an audit by the office of State Auditor Charlie Janssen that questioned $535 million to $800 million in CARES Act unemployment payments by the state. An auditor’s letter said the state Department of Labor had not cross checked recipients reported wages against tax information. Ricketts said he appreciates the auditor’s work, but disputed the letter.

“We disagree with the auditor’s making such a broad generalization off of a relatively small sample size. The Department of Labor gets checked on by the U.S. Department of Labor and just had one of those reviews and had very minor corrections come out of that review, and we expect to have additional reviews,” he said.

The auditor’s letter said the office had examined 60 unemployment payments and found an error rate of 66 percent.

And on property taxes, Ricketts said the state would be providing $650 million a year to offset them when legislation passed this year, LB1107, is fully implemented. The governor was asked what he would tell property owners whose taxes are still going up, because valuations have increased.

“With regard to putting some sort of restraint on those taxes going up, it is something we were not able to achieve in (LB)1107 and that’s something that we’ll have to take up in the Legislature in the upcoming session in January to make sure the relief that the state is providing is making a difference for Nebraskans,” he said.