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Published:  June 15, 2020

10 Point Plan officially approved and released on May 22, 2020

Governor Pete Ricketts agrees to partner with African-American and North Omaha communities to prevent the spread of COVID 19 and address economic gaps.

A group of leaders representing hundreds of African-American led and North Omaha organizations, businesses, neighborhoods, churches, faith communities and thousands of residents have met with Governor Pete Ricketts and key department leaders over the past two months to identify ways to work together to prevent the spread of the COVID 19 Coronavirus and address long-term economic issues.

Governor Ricketts recognizes that in Douglas County a disproportionate number African-Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Asians and other people of color have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus.

The North Omaha and South Omaha communities have the highest number of documented cases in Douglas County.

The leadership groups and Governor Ricketts have also discussed the economic gaps, health disparities and underlying conditions that existed well before the virus and in some cases have been in place for decades.

Both groups acknowledge some important progress has been made during the previous 10 years, but much work lies ahead to fully close economic and health gaps.

Building on successful gains made in Omaha through collective work and the historic collaboration now occurring in North Omaha, Governor Ricketts and his team have agreed to work with the community in the following specific areas including, but not limited to:

Tracking of data by race, ethnicity and geography; assuring residents with COVID related illness have access to health care; expanding testing efforts; increasing access to masks; partnering with community-based health organizations and entities; engaging with North Omaha media; sharing plans designed to prevent the spread of the virus in prisons and jails; and assuring organizations and businesses in areas hit hardest by the virus receive equitable funding from federal, state and county allocations and investments.

Governor Ricketts has assigned Directors Dannette Smith – Health and Human Services, Anthony Goins – Economic Development and Scott Frakes – Corrections, to work with the African-American and North Omaha communities.

For more details, please review the 10 Point Action Plan, Commitments and Initial Actions. (Below)

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Official Press Release (May 22, 2020)

Gov. Ricketts Highlights Progress on Partnership with Omaha Communities on Coronavirus Response 

LINCOLN – Today, Governor Ricketts provided an update on the State of Nebraska’s efforts to help communities in Omaha combat coronavirus disease (COVID-19).  Since early May, Governor Ricketts has been engaging leaders in North and South Omaha during the current public health emergency to help slow the spread of the virus. 

“Throughout the country, our minority populations have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus ,” said Governor Ricketts.  “We are working with leaders in communities of color throughout the state to ensure all Nebraskans have access the health care, education, and resources for this public health emergency.  Thank you to the leaders in North and South Omaha for working with the State to help address the issues that are most prevalent in their communities.”

The ten-point plan includes the following initiatives:

·     Data Reporting: Tracking health data related to coronavirus based on race, ethnicity, and geography across the State.

o  The State is working with local public health departments to track cases by race and ethnicity in statewide data reporting.

·     Access to Care: Working with health care leaders in the community and with the State of Nebraska to ensure that no one is denied coronavirus related health services.

o  Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has been working with healthcare providers in the community to assure them that they will be reimbursed for coronavirus related expenses.  The Governor’s Office is working with community leaders to inform the public that testing is free even if an individual does not have health insurance and that no one will be denied treatment for coronavirus because of an inability to pay.

·     Supporting Community Providers: Providing resources through healthcare facilities in North and South Omaha.

o  The State is engaging directly with Charles Drew and One World Health to ensure testing and other resources are being provided to the community.

·     Testing: Expanding testing in Omaha.

o  In addition to working with community federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), the State is deploying Test Nebraska testing sites in Omaha to increase testing capacity and assist in alleviating the burden on local healthcare providers in the community.  

·     Masks: Increasing availability of masks for the community.

o  DHHS and Governor’s Office are partnering with community leaders to increase messaging regarding the importance of wearing masks when out in public. 

·     Tracking Funding: Providing and tracking State and Federal coronavirus related funding for North and South Omaha.

o  The State is working with Omaha leaders to establish a guideline for tracking coronavirus related funding as it relates to the communities of North and South Omaha.

·     Corrections: Updating the community on the State’s plan to prevent spread of coronavirus in the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS).

o  NDCS Director Scott Frakes participated in a call with Omaha leaders to address their concerns regarding the virus’ impact on the State’s correctional system.

·     Unemployment: Assuring timely response regarding unemployment applications.

o  Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) Commissioner John Albin and NDOL have improved access to unemployment benefits by contracting with North End Teleservices to create a new call center for unemployment benefit claimants, with multiple bilingual customer service representatives available.  NDOL has provided additional access to the unemployment program by teaming with Metro Community College (MCC) to create an access point at the Fort Dodge campus of MCC.

·     Public Awareness: Collaborating with the Omaha community to expand messaging and education regarding coronavirus.

o  The Governor’s Office has been working directly with the Black Media Collaborative/North Omaha Media Collaborative to deploy coronavirus messaging as part of a month-long communications campaign.  The Governor’s Office is also working with Spanish media outlets to get messaging to those in which English is not their primary language.

·     Future Growth: Partnering with leaders to address long-standing economic and health issues in North and South Omaha.

o  Governor Ricketts has directed Nebraska Department of Economic Development Director Tony Goins and DHHS CEO Dannette Smith to work closely with the communities of North and South Omaha to address these issues.  To date, task forces have been established that involve state, local, and industry leaders to focus on both of these areas.

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The North Omaha groups consist of hundreds of organizations, businesses, churches, neighborhood associations, media outlets and others representing and serving thousands of residents.

10 Point Action Plan to Prevent the Spread of COVID 19 and Work to Begin Addressing Short-term and Long-term Economic and Health Issues in North Omaha.

Developed with North Omaha Leaders/COVID Task Forces in partnership with Governor Ricketts and leaders from State Departments (April – May 2020; approved May 15, 2020)


1. Tracking data by race, ethnicity and geography across the state in a similar format to what Douglas County is currently implementing.
Commitment: Governor Ricketts agreed to have the Department of Health and Human Services to work with county officials to collect this important data.

Initial Action:  The first report was released on May 30, 2020.  Douglas County has gathered and reported data by race, ethnicity and geography from the beginning.

 

2.  Working with Health systems CEO’s, DHHS and others to assure that no one facing Coronavirus issues is denied health services during this time. 

Commitment:  Governor Ricketts agreed to have his team work with CEO’s and other health organizations to assure that no Nebraskan will be turned away from health services related to COVID.  And, Governor Ricketts made the commitment that health organization would be reimbursed for services provided to those with COVID related sickness.

Initial Actions: Meetings have been held with health organizations and this message has been communicated.  No Nebraskan will be refused access to healthcare related to COVID 19.  Cares funding also assures no one will be turned away because of COVID 19.

 

3.  Provide funding to support Charles Drew Health Center, One World Health Center, Center for Holistic Development and North Omaha Area Health clinic who all provide culturally specific and valuable leadership and health services in North and South Omaha. The funding opportunities will address physical and mental health.

Commitment:  Governor Ricketts agreed to identify funding opportunities for communities most impacted by COVID 19 including North and South Omaha.

Initial Actions:  Governor Ricketts and his team are identifying opportunities that can be connected to North and South Omaha and other areas severely impacted by COVID 19.  Follow up meetings are scheduled to identify and secure specific funding through grant application processes and direct allocation to communities most impacted.  Several meetings have been held with HHS Mental Health team.  A proposal is under consideration by DHHS.

 

4.  Increase the access to testing. Reinforce the need for testing.

Commitment:  Governor Ricketts agreed to the importance of expanded testing.

Initial Actions:  Governor Ricketts launched TestNebraska, a major statewide initiative which will help identify geographic areas to focus on and lead to contact tracing to prevent further spread.  The state of Nebraska will partner with Charles Drew and One World in the local community.   The One World implementation started on Thursday, May 14th.  Charles Drew implementation has also started.

 

5.  Push for more masks and face coverings to be made available in North and South Omaha.

Commitment:  Governor Ricketts agreed to support efforts in Douglas County to make more masks available.

Initial Actions:  Douglas County and others have made over 26,000 masks available within the past two weeks for North and South Omaha.  African-American and North Omaha leaders will be working with Douglas County and other to make more masks available.

 

6.  Identify the funding allocated for Nebraska through the Federal Cares program which has made $1.099 billion available to the State and $160 million to Douglas County to address COVID 19 issues.   Assure that North and South Omaha receive equitable funding from Federal and State sources. And, use scorecards for tracking and reporting purposes.  

Commitment:  The State has agreed to track by category and department the amount allocated and invested/spent with North and South Omaha organizations.

Initial Actions:  A draft tracking report has been created and a diversity and inclusion scorecard.  The State of Nebraska has identified plans to allocate the funds by category.

 

7.  Formally address the plan to prevent spread of COVID in State Corrections without sharing sensitive safety procedures.

Commitment:  Governor Ricketts agreed to have Director Scott Frakes share plans without sensitive safety procedures.  Governor Ricketts also committed to testing incarcerated individuals if an incident occurs.

Initial Actions:  A follow-up conference call with State Corrections Director Scott Frakes and DC Jail Director Michael Myers was very productive.  As of June 13, 2020, nine state employees have been diagnosed with COVID and have been quarantined.  One incarcerated individuals has tested positive in State Corrections.  All institutions have comprehensive plans in place.  As of June 11th, all incarcerated individuals can be tested within the state corrections system.

 

8. Assure that unemployment claims are met on a timely basis.  

Commitment:  Governor Ricketts and his team were already working to increase staffing to support faster service.  Staff has increased from 35 to over 160.  Governor Ricketts was open to a proposal to help increase capacity in Douglas County with emphasis on Heartland Workforce Solutions.

Initial Actions:  Staff has been increased from 35 to over 160.  Barriers are being reduced.  Governor Ricketts is considering additional funding to support Heartland Workforce Solutions to assist with unemployment work in North and South Omaha.


9. Working with North and South Omaha media to spread the Stay Home, Stay Safe and Support the Village campaign which also incorporates the Governor’s six point plan to Stay Healthy.
  (campaign should include physical and mental health)

Commitment:  Governor Ricketts agreed to support PSA’s and personal participation with radio interviews.  The communications team is reviewing COVID 19 funding to assess the ability to invest in education campaigns.  Governor Ricketts also committed to assuring communications materials for education, resources and promotional materials will be culturally specific.

Initial Actions:  Governor Ricketts has been a special guest on three African-American radio stations in North Omaha.  In addition, the State of Nebraska has actively participated with the communications strategy in North Omaha and South Omaha.  The leadership group working with Black/North Omaha media and Hispanic/South Omaha media are presenting a long-term communications and outreach plan.  The State of Nebraska has started advertising campaigns on the three radio stations.

10.   In addition to the 10 Point Plan, Governor Ricketts and his team will work with North and South Omaha on an expanded short-term and long-term economic and health transformation strategy to address long-standing issues and gaps. Make the state of Nebraska a thriving and prosperous state in every county for all people including all races, ethnicities and zip codes in rural and urban communities with a special and intense focus on North and South Omaha which have suffered decades of health disparities driven by socio-economic issues.

Commitment:  Governor Ricketts agreed to partner with the North and South Omaha leadership groups to develop and implement strategies to address short-term and long-term economic and health issues that addressed before COVID 19.  Some of the immediate needs are directly related to the success of small businesses.

Initial Actions:  Governor Ricketts and Tony Goins, Director of Economic Development for the State of Nebraska have created task forces to specifically address COVID related business issues.

Governor Ricketts has agreed to on-going planning and strategy sessions to work with the North Omaha and South Omaha leadership groups to implement targeted strategies.

Governor Ricketts is working with African-American leaders to implement the programs and Anthony Goins, Director of Economic Development, Dannette Smith, Director of Health and Human Services and Scott Frakes, Director of Corrections are working directly with leaders to move things forward.

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1,200+ attend Rebuilding the Village Conference featuring Eric Thomas

OMAHA, Neb. – June 11, 2024 – On Friday, June 7, more than 1,200 attendees walked through the doors of  the CHI Health Center Omaha & Hilton Omaha Downtown to listen to captivating speakers during the 17th Annual Rebuilding the Village Conference and Luncheon. Hosted by the Empowerment Network, the event also featured the Revive Omaha Black Business Expo, as well as a powerful and energizing speech delivered by keynote speaker Eric Thomas, Ph.D., a New York Times best-selling author, educator and motivational guru.

“Think Big and Take Action! The Rebuilding the Village Conference was a tremendous success, bringing together local and national leaders, visionaries and community members who are committed to making a tangible difference,” said Willie Barney, CEO and founder, Empowerment Network. “We were able to convene over 1,200 participants including 600 youth from our Step-Up Omaha program.  This conference is more than an event; it’s a movement that empowers teamwork to revitalize our communities. Together, we are forging a path towards sustainable growth and collective prosperity.”

Timothy Christian, Board Chair, Empowerment Network and CEO Night Fox Entertainment, Eric Thomas ET and Willie Barney, CEO and Founder, Empowerment Network.  Photo Credit Nehemiah Barney

The Rebuilding the Village Conference and Luncheon brought together community leaders, activists, entrepreneurs and stakeholders to address critical issues facing underserved communities. With a strong focus on professional and community development, this year’s conference was centered around career advancement, DEI, entrepreneurship, leadership development and wealth building. Sessions were designed to enhance collaboration and strengthen the economic impact in Omaha and beyond.

As keynote speaker, Thomas talked about the importance of inclusive leadership strategies, purpose with emphasis on working collectively. “As a leader, you have to stop ambushing, as a leader, you have to stop doing the one-on-one, as the leader, you have to stop being in isolation,” said Thomas. “You’ve got to understand why [purpose] is so significant; it’s so significant because whoever you are, whatever assignment you’re on, you have to fulfill that assignment.  You are better when you move together.”

Supported in part by the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a program of The Obama Foundation, the Empowerment Network is dedicated to building safe and thriving communities through economic, educational and social success. Programs like Omaha 360 and Step-Up Omaha exemplify these efforts. My Brother’s Keeper Alliance promotes supportive communities for boys and young men of color, ensuring they feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity.

With representation from New Orleans, Kansas City, Lansing, Tulsa, Pittsburgh, Memphis, St. Louis and other national cities, attendees came far and wide to network, build community and grow professionally and personally during this year’s conference.

This year’s agenda also included special sessions just for Step-Up youth which aligns with the mission of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.  Breakout sessions focused on driving change, community investment and connecting students with their gifts and strengths.

“There’s always more work ahead, but we have seen a measurable impact through our collective work and collaboration with hundreds of organizations and the engagement of thousands,” said Barney. “Step-Up students are graduating from high school, going to college and entering the workforce.  Graduates of Legacy Wealth are buying homes, launching and scaling businesses, saving and investing.  Alumni of Redefine the Game are receiving promotions, advancing their careers and moving into leadership. We are launching the next round of these cohorts and two others focused on fund development and leadership.”

In the coming months, the Empowerment Network is working with partners to launch the next phase of transformation this summer – pathway to careers, wealth and ownership. Additional growth opportunities including:

  • Connecting 200 more youth per year to the Step-Up youth employment and entrepreneurship programs, to grow to 1,000 students per summer within three years
  • Expanding STEAM programming including drones, robotics, music production, entrepreneurship and culinary.
  • Launching Skill Up! and EmPower Up! for hundreds of North Omaha adult residents to increase wages by providing wrap around and certified educational services
  • Investing in small businesses, entrepreneurship, tourism and job creation
  • Expanding efforts to reduce gun violence by an additional 50%
  • Assisting 250 organizations, small businesses, neighborhoods and churches with capacity-building

As an effort to invest back into Omaha’s Black-owned businesses, the conference featured entrepreneurs during the Black Business Expo, in addition to three breakout sessions specifically for small business owners.

More than 20 panel discussions and interactive workshops led by industry experts and community leaders were also held.

“We greatly appreciate all the attendees, sponsors, speakers, volunteers and all engaged.  We encourage you to support small businesses and stay engaged,” said Barney.

To learn more about the Rebuilding the Village Conference visit https://www.rtvomaha.com/. To stay connected with the Empowerment Network and learn about upcoming events, visit https://empoweromaha.com/. Follow Empowerment Network on Facebook at Facebook.com/EmpowermentNetwork.

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About the Empowerment Network

The Empowerment Network is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing economic, social, and civic progress within Omaha’s African American community, North Omaha and the region. Through collaborative efforts and innovative initiatives, the Empowerment Network strives to create opportunities for empowerment and transformation in every zip code and neighborhood in Omaha and beyond.

 

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Community Features

2024 Revive Omaha Black Business Guide

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Community Features

New cohorts prepare to launch…Leadership, Fund Development, Wealth Building & Career Advancement

OMAHA, Neb.

Great News!  After announcing four cohorts late last year, the Empowerment Network decided to delay the launch of the initiatives as they ran into the holiday season, received formal notice of their award of $10 million through the North and South Omaha Recovery Plan and continued the national collaboration with their partner cities introduced at last year’s African-American Leadership Summit.

The Network is now prepared to move forward with the four capacity-building cohort opportunities with their national strategic partners and advisors Dr. Pamela Jolly, Dr. Randal Pinkett, Dr. Jeffery Robinson, Suzan Hart and Anna Barber.

Keys to Fund Development to Make Your Vision a Reality & Intro to Cohort

Anna Barber, fundraising expert that has helped to raise hundreds of millions of dollars including for the Smithsonian’s National Black History Museum in Washington D.C., will lead a six-month cohort on Fund Development:  building a donor base to make your vision a reality.

Barber will share insights gained through her work with major universities, the Museum, Obama Foundation and other national clients.  Participants will develop a comprehensive step by step plan to build and maintain a strong, diversified donor base.

Complete this form to express interest in the Fund Development Cohort with Anna Barber.

 

Collaborative, Transformation Leadership and Powerful Storytelling & Intro to Cohort

Suzan Hart, one of world’s top storytellers and presenters, will launch a Collaborative Leadership and Storytelling cohort:  Maximize Opportunities with the Power of Your Story.

Participants will learn more about the transformational power of collaboration and enhance their presentation skills by defining purpose, understanding their value, and releasing the power of their story.

Complete this form to express interest in the Transformational Leadership and Storytelling Cohort with Suzan Hart.

 

Advancing Your Career with Key Principles from Redefine the Game & Intro to Cohort

Dr. Jefferey Robinson of BCT Partners will return to Omaha to help launch the 5th Cohort of the Redefine the Game Institute, an innovative career advancement and leadership development program. Over 150 have participated with most receiving promotions and increased compensation, expanded career opportunities or leadership positions within new organizations.

Complete this form to express interest in the Redefine the Game Institute cohort with Dr. Randal Pinkett and Dr. Jeffrey Robinson.

 

Understanding Your Wealth Building Code and Developing Your Plan & Intro to Cohort

Dr. Pamela Jolly a nationally recognized wealth-building strategist returns to launch the third cohort of the Legacy Wealth Initiative.  Graduates of Legacy Wealth have developed wealth plans, saved thousands of dollars, become homeowners, launched and purchased businesses, invested individually and collectively and made contributions to their community.

Complete this form to express interest in the Legacy Wealth Cohort with Dr. Pamela Jolly.

 

Stay connected to the Empowerment Network website for the next steps.   

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