Ricketts Resists More State Work From Home; Carter Optimistic on Football

April 15, 2020, 6:24 p.m. ·

Justin Hubly of state employees' union speaks to reporters at the Nebraska Capitol (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

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Despite pleas from a state workers’ union, Gov. Pete Ricketts is resisting letting more state employees work from home or closing some offices to the public. Meanwhile, University of Nebraska President Ted Carter says he’s optimistic there’ll be students on campus, and football in Memorial Stadium, this fall.


Gov. Pete Ricketts begins his daily coronavirus news conferences the same way these days, urging Nebraskans to follow certain rules to keep Nebraska healthy. They include “Go to work. Work from home if you can. Socially distance properly if you’re going into the workplace.”

Some of the employees Ricketts ultimately oversees, who work for state agencies, say they’d like to follow his advice and work from home. Justin Hubly, executive director of the NAPE/AFSCME Local 61 union, talked to reporters in the Capitol before the governor’s news conference Wednesday, bringing what he said were petitions with over 1,600 signatures making requests.

“We’re asking the governor…number one, to allow any state employee who can work from home to work from home. There’s no need to endanger people’s lives forcing them to go to work if they have the ability to work from home. Two, we’re asking that local service offices be closed to the public for the next 15 days while the stay at home idea is in effect in April. We don’t want the public coming out so they infect us, or God forbid, we infect them,” Hubly said.

In his news conference, Ricketts said about 30 percent of state workers are working from home. But he said others need to come in, to do work like processing unemployment benefits. “We have had more people apply for those unemployment benefits since March 1 than we did in the previous two years combined. Those are Nebraskans that are hurting. They need our help. We’ve gotta process those applications. We gotta get those checks out. Some of that work has just got to be done in the office,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts suggested employees who think they can work from home talk to their supervisor; union officials say when employees have done so, supervisors have said there’s nothing they can do.

Also at the news conference, University of Nebraska President Ted Carter was asked about prospects for football being played this fall. Carter said that topic is being discussed across the country.

“What I’ve heard… from coaches and athletic directors is first of all they don’t think football should be played in front of empty stadiums. Fans are part of the college football experience. I don’t know whether that means half full stadiums or fans that are spread apart by following some of the physical distancing limits that we have now,” Carter said.

Carter said the university’s Lincoln and Omaha campuses have decided to limit courses to online over the summer. But he said he’s optimistic students will be back on campus in the fall, and football will be played. “Whether that means college football starts being played in the last week of August, first week of September, or maybe even November, I think we’ll find a way that suits everybody but keeps people as safe as possible. And from my view, I’m looking forward to seeing football back in Memorial Stadium, with some number of fans there and cheering on “Go Big Red.”

Also Wednesday, Ricketts announced Nebraska businesses will be surveyed on how the coronavirus has affected them, to help guide how the state should respond. You can find and respond to that survey at cpar.unomaha.edu/nebusinessresponse.