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Published:  May 26, 2020

History was made in North Omaha!  All eyes now on the general election.

Four years ago, in 2016, North Omaha voted at an abysmal 6% during the primary.  With effective collaboration and purposeful coordination, the community responded in 2020 and generated a 22% turnout.

The nearly four times increase is substantial and deserves to be celebrated.  North Omaha residents, you made it happen!

Many individuals and organizations should be recognized for their efforts to inform and mobilize the community.  Preston Love, Jr and North Omaha Votes Matter.  Precious McKesson with NONA.  Sergio Sosa with the Heartland Workers Center. Kimara Snipe with Nebraska Civic Engagement Table.  The League of Women Voters, Pastors and Faith Leaders, and others helped to produce the increased turnout.

All of the candidates that ran for office should also be celebrated.  Omaha had one of the most diverse slates of candidates in the history of the city.  There were African-Americans and other people of color on the ballot in just about every major race.

The newly formed Black/North Omaha Media Collaborative also played a key role. Radio stations 101.3, 95.7 and 100.3 all featured candidates and discussed key issues on their stations.  The Omaha Star and NoiseOmaha all provided critical information to residents.

Another major piece of the success was the approval to make vote by mail an option for all residents.  The election commission led very effectively by Brian Kruse and Chris Carithers, sent vote by mail post cards to all Douglas County residents.  Kruse and Carithers have proven to be very community minded and have made themselves very accessible in all parts of the city.

As a result, Douglas County also set records for voter turnout in a primary election.  85% of the votes cast in the 2020 primary election were by mail.

If the method produces higher voter participation, it should definitely be considered and added as a practical and measurable solution.  The same process should be implemented going forward for every election.

In addition to this group of the change makers, the strong slate of candidates and the vote by mail model, special recognition should also go to Sal Issaka and the Omaha Housing Authority.

With the issues presented by the Coronavirus, the election commission was forced to relocate a number of polling centers and move them away from their traditional locations in the OHA Towers.  The change was made to protect the health of seniors and other residents in the towers.

The community response led by Preston Love and Sal Issaka mobilized quickly to innovate and create a workable solution. This collective group worked together in a joint effort with Kimara Snipes in South Omaha and the election commission to generate positive results.  As reported by Preston Love, Jr, using the vote by mail option, all of the towers experienced an increase in votes.  Overall, the votes from tower residents increased by two and a half times previous years.  Evans Tower had a dramatic 80% increase from 2016 to 2020.

The Omaha Housing Authority Vote By Mail (VBM) mobilization effort was a collaboration of multiple organizations, including Black Votes Matter Institute of Community Engagement, Nebraska Civic Engagement Table, the South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha and NONA-North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance.

The North Omaha community should be proud of its turnout for the primary. Yet, there’s more work ahead.   The turnout county wide was 37%, so there’s still a gap that must be closed.

Come November, North Omaha must respond in a strong way to assure their voice is heard.  The community must also be vigilant regarding misinformation and voter suppression efforts.

During the 2008 and 2012 elections with Barack Obama on the ballot, North Omaha generated very high voter turnout.  With the importance of the upcoming election, it will be urgent and critical for North Omaha to reach the same level of participation.

There’s a strong likelihood that the Coronavirus will still play a major role.  The state and county should be prepared to once again offer vote by mail as a reliable and safe option.

Congratulations North Omaha!  Now, let’s set a new record during the general election in November.   Get involved.  Register to vote.  Vote by mail.  Become a volunteer for a campaign.  Make contributions to your candidate.

History is calling.  Together, we can set new records for voter participation in the general election.

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NEWS

Douglas County takes historic first step: Declares Racism as a Public Health Crisis with 22 Actions

Published:  June 20, 2020

Moving beyond the protests and demonstrations, the Douglas County Board of Health took a bold step on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 and declared racism as a public health crisis.

In the midst of a world-wide pandemic, national unrest and spirited debate regarding police brutality and excessive use of force, Douglas County is stepping up to lead the way to begin addressing racism head on.

(Commissioner Chris Rodgers, Chair of Douglas County Board of Health)

“We see this as a first step, an important, big and bold first step to educate the public, solve some immediate problems, but most importantly dismantle a structurally racist system and build a new anti racist system,” said Chris Rodgers, Douglas County Commissioner and Chair of the Board of Health.

Over the past few weeks major corporations have made public statements and some have pledged significant dollars to begin addressing systemic racism in the workplace and in the community.  This move by the county shows that public entities are also preparing to fight the battle.

Over the years, protests have generated headlines and attracted major media coverage, but after the smoke clears the demands for change are typically met with small incremental progress or in some cases increased resistance and backlash.  There are early signs that this time will be different.

The county resolution is just one example.  Within the resolution, twenty two specific actions are identified.  In order to make a real impact, each of the elements must be fully implemented.

“This provides a foundation to really begin addressing the issues directly,” said Rodgers.”  It provides us a way to assess everything we are doing as it relates to race.”

Some of the components of the resolution include:

  • Establishing and supporting an Office of Health Equity and Racial Justice
  • Including in any decision making the people most affected by heath and economic challenges
  • Advocate for relevant health policies to improve health in communities of color
  • Commit to conduct all human resources, vendor selection and grant management activities with a racial equity lens
  • Promote racially equitable economic and workforce development practices
  • Establish alliances and secure adequate resources to successfully accomplish the above objectives

Just last year, the county in partnership with the Council for Racial Justice and Reconciliation Committee, commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the lynching of Will Brown.  It was a memorable show of unity in the city as people of all races and ethnicities remembered the horrible lynching and burning of a Black man during the 1919 race riots, but leaders pledged to never let it happen again.

Participants also committed to working together to improve race relations and address long-term social, health and economic issues.

As the calendar turned to 2020, within three months the nation and world were dealing with the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.  Through the impact of the Coronavirus, underlying health disparities and economic inequities have been exposed at an unprecedented level.

African-Americans and people of color are once again disproportionately diagnosed with cases and are dying at an alarming rate from the disease.

After years of research and work to improve health conditions and some targeted efforts to address the social determinants of health, county officials started along the path of officially recognizing what many in the black community have known forever, racism is having a devastating impact.

(Photo:  Dr. Adi Pour)

“We have been tracking the health data since 2002 and there’s been very little progress and some measures are now worse than they were,” said Dr. Adi Pour, Director of the Douglas County Health Department.

“Coronavirus has further exposed health disparities, where 77 % of the COVID-19 cases in Douglas County impact the minority communities. It is time to address the underlying causes, i.e. the structural and institutional policies that have disadvantaged our minority communities. It’s time we work together.”

With the number of COVID 19 cases still escalating as the virus continues to spread and unrest locally and nationally persists regarding excessive use of force by the police, the county resolution and forthcoming actions should make a difference.  To be effective, influential and impactful, the group must sustain the effort, reform policies and align investments to directly address the problem.

This is a big first step and should be recognized and celebrated.  Now the real work begins.

(City Councilman Ben Gray, member of Douglas County Board of Health)

“There is a sense of urgency to finally do something about this,” said Ben Gray, City Councilman and member of the Douglas County Board of Health.  “The city and county have the opportunity to reform and change these systems and structures.  We must get it done this time.”

Click below to read the resolution and 22 action steps:

DC Resolution Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis approved and recorded

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NEWS

Beyond the Flames of Protest: Why I believe 2020 is the Turning Point for Black America

Published:  June 15, 2020

By:  Willie Barney, Co-Publisher Revive Omaha

Beyond the Flames:  Why I Believe 2020 is a Turning Point

Where Do We Go From Here?

Harlem.  Watts.  Newark.  Detroit.  Omaha.  Los Angeles.  Ferguson.  Baltimore. Minneapolis.

“If we don’t learn from history, we are destined to repeat it.”
– Philosopher George Santanya and Winston Churchill

In 2014, as I watched the fires burning in Ferguson, Missouri, I wrote a piece entitled “Beyond the Flames:  Will We Get It Right This Time?”  Ferguson was burning in response to the devastating scenes following the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer.  I was so impacted and moved that I had to write down on paper what became a speech I gave at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

This followed the 2012 vigilante killing of Trayvon Martin and preceded the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody which ignited the flames in Baltimore.   The frustrating and devastating list goes on and on and continues today.

There have been other shootings of unarmed black men and black women when police officers received no repercussions from their crime.  This list also includes Omaha after the officer-involved shooting of Vivian Strong in 1969 that resulted in the destruction of North 24th Street.  The once thriving corridor is just now in the process of being rebuilt.

No justice for Eric Garner, New York, 2014.  No justice for Sandra Bland, 2015, southeast Texas.  No justice for Philando Castile 2016, suburban Minnesota.   No justice.

African-Americans have tried to send a message for decades that we are suffering.  Suffering from the lingering impacts of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation effects that were never fully addressed.  Suffering from unemployment, lack of investment, neglect, poor educational outcomes, low access to capital, over policing, poor housing conditions and so much more.  There have been small attempts to fix the situation, but nothing substantial and sustained.

A temporary reconstruction period followed the abolishment of slavery where some progress was made, but abandoned just at the time when freed slaves were finally starting to become integrated into American life.  No Justice.

There were promises made beyond the elimination of slavery.  Promises for land, property and finances for the freed slaves to get a new start at becoming full citizens.    Policies were changed to finally recognize African-Americans as being 100% human, correcting the Constitution which had declared us as 3/5ths of a man.

The original constitutional declaration allowed America to benefit economically for over 250 years from free labor through inhumane conditions.  It is referred to as the worst form of enslavement in modern history.  African-Americans helped build this country and were paid nothing for it.  No Justice.

What’s happening today is not new.  Racial tensions have raged before. There has always been a spark which kindled the flames.

These flames have come as city after city and community after community across the nation have been destroyed.

Before Richard Nixon was elected in 1968 on the promise to be a law and order president, President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) commissioned a group to find out why the cities across the country were burning.  The commission produced a document which became known as the Kerner Report.

Rather than identifying African-Americans as the cause, the report shined the light on white America.  The Kerner Commission presented the case that the blame for the riots should be placed squarely on the shoulders of underlying conditions of injustice, neglect, disinvestment, unequal treatment and systematic racism.

The report clearly states the priorities that must be addressed:  1. Unemployment and low wages.  2.  Poor educational systems.  3.  Poor housing conditions.  4. Bad relationships between police and the community.  5. Lack of services for those in poverty and the structure of welfare system.

The most important conclusion to address the injustice?  America needed to make a significant investment to right the wrongs of the past.

Little did I know until recently that the former Mayor of Omaha, A. V. Sorensen, had reached the same conclusion in 1968.  He said then that Omaha needed to bring together people from all sectors to form a coalition that would oversee a massive investment to address African-American poverty.  Nothing was done.

He left office realizing the city did not have the will or appetite to fully address the issue.  The city and nation continued redlining and driving interstates through the heart of black communities under the guise of urban redevelopment.

America chose to make small investments to address the injustice, but with a costly Vietnam War occurring at the same time, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared that the nation had given black America a blank check.  He said the easy part of the Civil Rights Movement was getting legislation passed for voting rights; the hard part was securing the funds to address the economic issues.  This was going to cost the nation money, King said.

For a time, mostly through programs enacted by President Johnson, some investments were made through the so-called War on Poverty.  The investments were not sustained and were not implemented anywhere near the level required.

One of the most significant statements and conclusions from the Kerner Commission was “to mount programs on the scale equal to the dimension of the problems.”  “These programs will require unprecedented levels of funding and performance…”

The report emphasized that if America didn’t respond on a large scale, we would see the creation of two America’s.  One black. One white.  Separate. Unequal.

Across the nation, we have inherited the promise.  Two Americas.  One white.  The other, everyone else (black and brown).

I wrote in the speech, after watching the flames in Ferguson, that in 1968, the nation had a decision to make.  Do we finally invest in helping African Americans become economically sound and full citizens or do we invest more in police, expanding the criminal justice system and building more prisons?

President Richard Nixon answered the question for America.  Law and order.  No Justice.

For decades, African-Americans have asked for additional investments to address employment, education, housing, health and other needs.  Funding was never available at the scale of the problem.  Communities were not rebuilt.

African-Americans asked for the promised 40 acres and a mule.  African-Americans presented plans such as the Freedom Agenda under Dr. King which proposed to end poverty in 10 years. African-Americans asked for reparations.

It is important to note reparations have been granted across the world after a specific race, ethnic group or nation was on the wrong end of injustice. The answer to these requests for African-Americans?  No funds available.  No justice.

Where would America ever come up with trillions of dollars to right this wrong?  We were always told, it would be absolutely impossible. We were told there is absolutely no way America could ever come up with trillions of dollars to address its original sin.  It’s been over 400 years since enslaved Africans were brought to these shores.

But, no recompense.  No Justice.

Instead we are told, pick yourself up by your bootstraps and help yourself.  Instead we are told, forget about slavery.  Instead we are told, you’ve had a black President.  Instead we are told, it’s a post-racial society and racism doesn’t exist.  Help yourselves, we are told.  There will be no hand up, we are told.

Cue the Coronavirus.

The virus may not be racist, but the impact surely is disproportionately destructive to African Americans and other people of color.  Health and economic inequities have been laid bare. Consequently, the virus called for a critical response.  A national response.

What does COVID-19 have to do with this justice and systemic racism?  As soon as the nation began to experience the negative economic and health impacts of the virus, immediate legislation was drafted and approved by Congress.  The Treasury Department rewrote the rules.  Trillions of dollars were miraculously found and infused into the economy to address suffering corporations, small businesses and most U.S. citizens.

In a moment of crisis, leaders can find the money.

The message this sends is that it matters who is suffering.  African-Americans have been suffering for centuries. Native Americans have been suffering for centuries.  However, when the unemployment rate for white Americans hit the same level as the African-American unemployment rate which has languished for decades, Congress and the Treasury department have taken actions to produce what is estimated at seven trillion dollars of economic activity.

The question is where did the money come from in this instance?  It’s been made abundantly clear that the nation could have made the right decision in 1865.  We could have made the right decision in 1918.  We could have made the right decision in 1968. We could have made the right decision in 1992 after Los Angeles and Rodney King.  We could have made the right decision after Ferguson in 2014.  We could have made the right decision after Baltimore in 2015.

No justice.   No peace.   Fast forward.

Cue the final spark.

Watching an unarmed black man, George Floyd, die a horrific death with the knee of a white police officer on his neck, and 2 other officers on his prone body behind the car, the image was finally too much. African-Americans have experienced police brutality and violence for decades, but this was filmed, became a viral moment on social media, and impossible to ignore, deny or cover up.  Breaking point.

In the midst of a pandemic which has killed over 100,000 Americans and disproportionately impacted African Americans and people of color, we once again are face to face with injustice and racism.

After being locked away in their homes for nearly three months and watching the video from Minneapolis and dozens of other racial events within a few weeks, cities across the country and internationally have erupted with protests and flames are once again burning in America.

What to do now?  Where’s the hope?

We know what needs to be done.  We have known for decades.  Case study after case study, commission after commission and book after book, have boiled down to economics, education, housing, equal access to health care and people working together to address poverty and systemic racism.

 

Part II:  Moving to Solutions

Omaha might not be in flames now, but we have a playbook.  George Fraser has called Omaha the Montgomery of the economic rights movement.  Pastor Freddie Haynes calls it the Selma of the next great movement.  They and others believe there are answers in Omaha.

On a personal level, after years of reading, researching and studying solutions, we embarked nearly fifteen years ago on a journey to move the dial and change the trajectory of our community.  Hundreds of organizations and thousands of residents, both youth and adults, have participated.  Both black and white.  Both civilian and police.   North, South, East and West.

I’m hopeful because through collaboration, we have made measurable progress in 8 of 10 key areas.

Through the collective efforts of hundreds of organizations and thousands of residents:

  • Gun violence was decreased by 74%
  • African-American high school graduation rates increased from 64% to 81%.
  • The percentage of African-Americans with a bachelor’s degree increased from 16% to 22%.
  • African-American unemployment was reduced from nearly 21% to 7.5%.
  • Employment for youth increased from 30 summer jobs to over 1,000.
  • The African-American poverty rate was reduced from 33% to 24%.
  • A new grocery store was built, some neighborhood stores were converted and fresh fruit and vegetables were brought to the community.
  • The Affordable HealthCare Act reduced the percentage of uninsured and did not penalize for pre-existing conditions.
  • Major revitalization efforts were launched, securing hundreds of millions of dollars in public/private investments.
  • A new wave of innovative black entrepreneurs is emerging.

One of the most significant areas of progress is the work we’ve done collectively to build stronger partnerships between police and community and begin addressing justice issues.  Body cameras, diversity training, open communication, police diversity and reductions of use of force have resulted from collaboration.  In Omaha, a city of 460,000, there has been one officer involved shooting in the past eighteen months.  Cities across the nation are looking to replicate the Omaha 360, a nationally recognized model.

To be sure, we never thought the work was done.  We know significant gaps still exist. Yet, we also know that it is possible to move the dial.

In 2014, partly fueled by the flames of Ferguson, we made a proposal to accelerate the progress of African-Americans and North Omaha and identified the level of investment it would require. The plan became known as Transformation 2025 Initiative.  It was based on the input of over 8,000 people, implementation of successful projects and aligned with the findings of the Kerner Report and Freedom Agenda.

We secured some initial investments.  We aligned efforts.  We built effective collaborations.  We pushed for large scale investments with specific goals, strategies, initiatives, programs and policies identified.

The areas where we secured funds we have been able to produce tangible, measurable results.  But when it came to the larger proposals, we were told there are no additional funds.

“Where would we ever find that level of funding?”

Omaha can find the funds when it becomes a priority.   Hundreds of millions of dollars for downtown redevelopment.  $140 million for the TD Ameritrade baseball stadium. Hundreds of millions for a new Buffett Cancer Center.  $200 million just approved by citizens to improve streets and the list goes on.  To be clear, these are all great investments for the City of Omaha.  I stand in full support.  They are all needed and benefit the city and region.  However, these investments prove the point: Omaha and other cities can move the dial and we can find the resources to do what we prioritize.

As described by Obama Foundation officials who visited our community, “Omaha is a get it done city.”

We are now faced with the same decision that the nation and city confronted in 1968.

Invest in people or invest in prisons?   Invest in residents or invest in buildings.  Invest in prevention or invest in penalties.  Invest in proactive solutions or civil unrest.

In 2020, what decision will we make?  This is our turning point.

We know how to put out the fire.  I believe that collectively, with the fires raging and in the midst of a pandemic, we will make the right decision.  In the words of Dr. King, “We will finally make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

As African-Americans, we must unite and do our part.  Support black businesses and businesses in North Omaha.  Vote.  Create generational wealth. Continue reinforcing the importance of education.  Take care of our health.  Work together to address justice and reform.  Engage with the community to address race relations and inequities.  Use all of our gifts and assets.  Partner with allies.

Omaha.  America.  You must do your part.  Listen.  Allow African-Americans and residents from neighborhoods most impacted to lead. Partner and support.  Be an ally.  Implement new policies to reform the justice system.  It is time to invest at the scale of the problem.

Invest in entrepreneurship and access to credit and capital.  Invest in employment, diversity and higher wages.  Invest in safe, affordable housing and mixed income neighborhoods.  Invest in education and high performing school models.  Invest in prevention, intervention, community policing and reentry programs.  Invest to make healthcare accessible and affordable for all.

We can all win.  Let’s design a society and democracy that works for all of its citizens.  The rest of the world is watching.  Will this grand experiment finally and fully become what it can be?  A place where all citizens are spiritually, economically and socially thriving, healthy and prosperous.

In Omaha, the early indications from all sectors is that it will be different this time.  We have the will and the appetite to make this the turning point.  We can put the flames out for good this time.

______________________________________________

Two additional thoughts.  There are other plans that have been developed and numerous individuals and groups who are working diligently on their initiatives, projects, programs and policies.  Our goal is to create a combined plan that we can all work on together and do our part in a collaborative way.

In addition, many individuals, organizations, foundations, businesses and ministries have invested tremendous amounts of time, talent and treasure into various initiatives generating measurable outcomes.  We should pause and recognize these committed partners.  Now, together, we will focus more intensely on wealth, health and ownership.

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Governor Pete Ricketts, Directors Smith, Goins and Frakes: Formally working with African-American & North Omaha communities

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)

__________________________________________________

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.

 _____________________________________________

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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