Lawmakers passed a bill March 25 that provides emergency funding to combat the coronavirus pandemic in Nebraska.

LB1198, sponsored by Gering Sen. John Stinner, appropriates a total of $83.6 million to bolster the state’s response to the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Funds will be transferred from the state’s Cash Reserve Fund to the Governor’s Emergency Cash Fund. Dollars then will be directed to a newly created program to be known as the Governor’s Emergency Program – COVID-19, housed within the state’s Military Department.

Among priorities to be funded by the bill, as outlined in Gov. Pete Ricketts’ request to the Legislature, are:
• $38.2 million for personal protective gear and other supplies and support for local health departments;
• $13 million to maintain staffing at veterans’ homes and state Department of Health and Human Services care facilities;
• $4 million for additional staffing and overtime costs for the DHHS Division of Public Health;
• $2.5 million to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for lab equipment, software programming and personnel;
• $515,000 to UNMC to facilitate COVID-19 testing; and
• $344,000 to establish a statewide communication system to share information related to response efforts.

The bill also provides $25 million in unobligated funds to be held in reserve for unforeseen needs that may arise due to the pandemic.

LB1198 passed on a vote of 45-0. It was signed by the governor and took effect immediately.