Some Counties Can't Meet Gov's Deadline to Open Courthouse, Risk Losing COVID Relief Funds

May 27, 2020, 5:11 p.m. ·

A map showing which County Corthouses are open to the public as of Wednesday (Nebraska Association of County Officials)

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Wednesday any Nebraska county that hasn’t fully opened its courthouse by June 8 won’t be eligible to receive COVID-19 relief funds from the federal CARES Act. Ricketts says he expects counties to be offering public services.

"If counties want to make a different choice, then we’re going to reserve the money for counties who are looking to serve the public in a full way," Ricketts said at his daily press conference Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, just 14 of Nebraska’s 93 counties have courthouses open to walk-in services – although that number will likely double by Monday, according to Executive Director of the Nebraska Association of County Officials Larry Dix.

Dix says he started getting calls from county officials as soon as Gov. Ricketts made the announcement Wednesday.

Many county boards aren’t scheduled to meet again until after June 8. So the NACO is asking the governor’s office to either push back the deadline one week, or make exceptions for some counties.

"I have every reason to believe we’ll try to work through those provisions because I think that’s the right thing to do for the public," Dix said.

He says county boards might be able to schedule an emergency meeting before June 8, but it's unclear if this situation qualifies as an emergency.

"We just want to do everything by the letter of the law for the counties," Dix said. "And give the public the opportunity to come into a regularly-scheduled county board meeting and share their concerns and their thoughts."

$100 million is set aside for local governments, which also includes cities, municipalities, villages, and utility districts. It’s part of the total $10.8 billion in CARES Act money headed to Nebraska.