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NE Leg: Multiple bills would allocate ARPA Funds for healthcare

In 2021 alone, about 10% of Nebraska’s registered nurses left their jobs. Experts say if something doesn’t change, that number will continue to decline.
Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 9:24 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -In 2021 alone, about 10% of Nebraska’s registered nurses left their jobs. Experts say if something doesn’t change, that number will continue to decline.

A series of bills heard in committee on Tuesday asked for millions of dollars to work to fill that gap permanently.

The money would come from nearly $1 billion in American Rescue Plan dollars allocated to Nebraska. Tuesday’s hearing was full of heart-breaking stories from nurses and healthcare workers who have been on the front lines for the past two years.

“No matter how much death we may be accustomed to as an ICU nurse, nothing compares to wrapping a human being in a plastic bag,” said Nichole Hanson, a registered nurse.

Nurses like Hanson recounted the darkest days of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“One thing you’re sure of though when you come home after your shift you will have nothing left to give your family or yourself,” said Hanson.

Those who spoke were in support of seven bills. They would give hundreds of millions to healthcare workers and facilities, like LB 1055, which sets aside $50 million for bonuses for Nebraska nurses.

“With each loss, it is getting harder to compartmentalize the things that I have seen,” said Kaitlin Rogge, a registered nurse. “I carry many of these experiences with me and did not realize the emotional aftermath it had on me until it started having trouble sleeping and having anxious episodes nights before I had to work the next day.”

LB 1269 sets aside $10 million to pay back student debts for nurses in rural areas. Providers participating in these programs have a longer retention time in rural areas than providers who do not participate.

Two other bills would take $65 million to help plug gaps in assisted living and Medicaid-certified nursing facilities using the money for bonuses, recruitment, and staff retention.

“We have seen an increase in our payroll costs of $775,000 due to overtime and additional costs for recruitment and retention,” said Tracy Lichti, president of Newcastle Retirement Center.

The seven bills ask for a total of about $215 million.

There is a deadline for those funds. They have to be designated by 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

10/11 NOW spoke with the chair of the Appropriations Committee, John Stinner on Tuesday. He expects the committee work to be over soon and to bring all ARPA-related bills to the floor by mid-march.

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