Today’s release of the annual Prosperity Now Scorecard shows that though the national economy has seen positive gains in recent years, policymakers are not doing enough to ensure that low- and moderate-income Nebraskans are able to share in this prosperity. Nebraska is ranked 18th in the nation overall for outcomes in financial health, businesses and jobs, housing, health care, and education. Though Nebraska was ranked highly out of 51 jurisdictions in housing (9th) and education (7th), for its affordable home values and top high school graduation rates, our state fell far behind in a number of other areas:
- Financial Assets & Income (22nd): More than 1 in 3 Nebraska households do not have enough savings to weather a significant loss of income, and the rate increases significantly for families of color, jumping to 60% of Latino households and 57% of Black households.
- Businesses & Jobs (42nd): In spite of the state’s low unemployment rate, the data show that the quality of lower-wage jobs are often not meeting the needs of Nebraska families. Over 22% of all jobs in the state were low-wage jobs, and only 36% of employers offered health insurance.
- Health Insurance (34th): Nebraska ranked last in the nation for health insurance by income, with the poorest 20% of Nebraskans being 8.5 times more likely than the richest 20% to be uninsured. Although the overall rate of uninsured children has dropped to 5%, nearly 9% of low-income children in Nebraska are uninsured.
The newest Scorecard shows that lawmakers in Nebraska have many opportunities to ensure that the economy works for all Nebraskans, especially those who have been left behind by past policies. Many of these efforts are underway at the Legislature, including:
- Protecting families against payday lending. Senator Vargas introduced LB 194 last year, which would reform the payday lending industry in Nebraska. Currently, lenders can charge families up to 461% on a small, short-term loan. The bill had a hearing last year and remains in the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee.
- Expanding paid leave for more workers. Senator Crawford introduced LB 305 last year, to create a Paid Family Medical Leave Insurance program, and LB 844 this year, to ensure that more workers can earn paid sick days when they are sick or to care for a family member. LB 844 is scheduled for a hearing before the Business and Labor Committee next Monday at 1:30 p.m.
- Targeted tax relief for low-income families. Instead of prioritizing a tax plan that largely benefits the wealthy and corporations, Nebraska should look to a balanced approach that targets relief to low-income families through an increase in the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and maintains adequate state revenue streams. Senator Vargas introduced LB 1074 this year, which would increase the state EITC from 10% to 12% of the federal EITC and ensure that state revenue remains sustainable in the future.
We all benefit when all children in Nebraska have the opportunity to reach their full potential in adulthood. Join us today as we continue to advocate for a pro-kid Nebraska by signing up for our advoKID or contacting your legislator.
View the State Outcome & Policy Report for Nebraska and the full report, Whose Bad Choices? How Policy Precludes Prosperity and What We Can Do About It.