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Sunday declared Statewide Day of Prayer across Nebraska

Syracuse Journal-Democrat

Governor Pete Ricketts held a Dec. 18 press briefing at the State Capitol to provide an update on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.  The Governor reported that coronavirus-related hospitalizations continue to decrease in Nebraska.  They are down to 602 from a high of 987 on Nov. 20.  Nebraska remains in the “yellow” phase of its pandemic response plan. 

In light of the physical, mental, and spiritual toll of the coronavirus pandemic, the Governor proclaimed Sunday, Dec. 20 as a Statewide Day of Prayer.  He encouraged Nebraskans to pray, according to their faith, for relief from the pandemic and for strength to endure it.  Gov. Ricketts also asked Nebraskans to remember those who’ve perished from the coronavirus along with the families grieving their loss this holiday season.

First Lady Susanne Shore joined the Governor to express condolences to those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic.  The Governor and First Lady called on Nebraskans to participate in a “Weekend of Remembrance and Honor” this Friday through Sunday as a way to commemorate those who have passed away due to the coronavirus.  During the weekend, Nebraskans are encouraged to engage in acts of honor, such as volunteering or making a charitable contribution to organizations that are working to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.  Volunteer and charitable opportunities can be found at nevolunteers.org.  Nebraska Impact has also established a virtual Memorial Wall for people to post testimonies and memorials of a loved one lost to the virus.  The website is neimpact.org

Gov. Ricketts announced that Nebraska anticipates an allocation of 11,700 Pfizer vaccine doses each of the next two weeks.  These doses will be used to vaccinate long-term care residents and staff starting the week of Dec. 28 through Jan. 3.  The Governor also announced that the state expects to receive about 32,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine next week. 

Nebraska Department of Revenue Commissioner Tony Fulton also took part in this morning’s press briefing.  As Nebraskans look ahead to filing their 2020 taxes, Commissioner Fulton noted that Nebraskans will be able to claim an income tax credit for a portion of their property taxes paid to support schools.  This is due to the Governor and Legislature passing a property tax relief package earlier this year.

Nebraska Department of Education Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt thanked school officials, teachers, bus drivers, custodians, and others who have made it possible for students to attend classes in-person this fall.  He applauded local school districts for implementing protocols to help people stay healthy in schools.

Gov. Ricketts: Statewide Day of Prayer

This holiday season, many Nebraskans are experiencing sorrow due to the loss of loved ones.

In addition to physical illness, the coronavirus has also taken a toll on the mental health, spiritual health, and livelihoods of many Nebraskans. 

In seasons of shared adversity, it is customary for American civic leaders to call on citizens to pray.  For example, President Zachary Taylor proclaimed Aug. 3, 1849 as a nationwide day of prayer during a cholera epidemic.

Throughout our state’s history, Nebraskans have united in prayer to God to humbly ask for strength and steadfastness during times of difficulty.

For these reasons, I am proclaiming Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, as a Statewide Day of Prayer in Nebraska.

I encourage individuals to pray for relief from the pandemic and for strength to endure it, according to their faith. I also call on Nebraskans to remember those who’ve perished from the coronavirus as well as the families grieving their loss.

Additionally, a flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol will be displayed in my office to honor Nebraskans impacted by pandemic.  The flag was provided by U.S. Senator Deb Fischer’s Office.

First Lady Shore: Weekend of Honor and Remembrance

I ask that each of us reach out to anyone we know who has lost a relative or friend to let the person know we are thinking of them.  This is a prime opportunity to make a connection with one another, which is especially important when we are having to limit our encounters. 

Through this Weekend of Remembrance and Honor, we want to spend some time reflecting on the loss and challenges we have experienced and begin what will be a long period of healing. 

This weekend, we encourage all Nebraskans to spend time acknowledging and honoring those who have died this year.

Nebraska Impact has established a Memorial Wall for people to post testimonies and memorials of a loved one lost to COVID.  These can be photos, stories, poems, pictures or artwork created in honor of someone, or links to videos or songs.  The website is neimpact.org.

I also invite everyone to visit the site and see the amazing Nebraskans who have been honored there already.  I’ve read all of the memorials at least once and can promise that getting to know each of these wonderful people is time well spent.

During the weekend, we encourage Nebraskans to engage in acts of honor, whether that be volunteering or making a charitable contribution to organizations that are working to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.  You can find volunteer and charitable opportunities at nevolunteers.org.

Commissioner Fulton: 2020 Tax Preparation

Tax season will soon be upon us.  Taxpayers will be able to file their Nebraska income tax returns for the 2020 tax year beginning in 2021.

This year, for the first time ever, you’ll be able to claim an income tax credit for a portion of the school district taxes you’ve paid.  This is thanks to the work of Governor Ricketts and the Legislature, who delivered property tax relief this past legislative session.

In the past, many Nebraskans have claimed a credit for mortgage interest on their federal taxes.  Now, taxpayers will be able to get a refundable credit for a portion of their local property taxes when filing state income tax returns.

This credit is refundable.  Even if someone’s state income tax liability is zero, they will receive the balance of the credit as a refund from the state.

The Department of Revenue is currently working with counties and other stakeholders on a Parcel Lookup Tool through which Nebraskans will be able to compute the school district taxes paid on their property.  This tool will be available in early February.  Using the tool is how Nebraskans will be able to determine what portion of their property taxes may be claimed as a credit on state income tax returns.

When taxpayers claim the credit, the Department of Revenue will verify that they are the rightful owner of the property on which any credit is paid.  This is a precaution to guard against fraudulently claimed credits.

While we expect this process to be smooth for filers, as with any new major initiative, we anticipate there will be questions.  

Please follow the Department of Revenue’s website at revenue.nebraska.gov.  We will post responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs) there as they become available.

Commissioner Blomstedt: Schools

We celebrate the hard work school officials, teachers, bus drivers, custodians, and others have done in 2020 to give students the opportunity to learn in the classroom.

Whereas school districts elsewhere in the country have not held classes in-person since March, every student in Nebraska had the opportunity to experience in-person education this fall.

Our anecdotal evidence suggests that our protocols are working.  

A recent study released by the CDC confirms what we’re seeing here in Nebraska.  The study shows that the risk of childhood transmission occurs outside of school environments, in other social settings.

We’ve completed a very successful semester, and we’ll retool our practices where necessary to ensure a strong return to school after the holidays in 2021.