In Nebraska, bills that advance out of the Legislature and are signed by the Governor typically become law three months after the Legislature has adjourned sine die, unless the bill contains an emergency clause, rendering it in effect upon approval by the Governor. With all bills passed during the 2015 session now in effect for several weeks or longer, we decided to take a look at what this year’s biggest policy changes mean for children and families in our state.
LB 81 provides a child care subsidy for families who earn up to 130% of the Federal Poverty Level. More importantly, it addresses the “cliff effect” that working families face when a small increase in income results in a benefit loss that the income does not compensate for, often causing parents to have to turn down raises or cut back on hours to afford child care. For families that use the child care subsidy to afford child care while they are at work, LB 81 ensures transitional assistance for two years or until they reach 185% of the Federal Poverty Level. This means that an estimated 1,944 families each year will benefit from transitional child care help enacted through LB 81, which took effect on August 30th.
The Aid to Dependent Children program received a boost with the adoption of LB 607 in August. This program helps children of families with incomes of up to 185% of the Federal Poverty Level get basic necessities, by providing a monthly payment to help cover costs. LB 607 sought to address a problem with the ADC program, in which the payments did not adequately cover the cost of living: in 2013, the average monthly payment was only $326.17. The enacted bill raises the monthly payment level to 55% of the standard of need, an increase of $72 per month to help an average of 6,200 Nebraskan families with low incomes. It also provides financial assistance to families transitioning off of the ADC to help them get back on their feet. Also created by LB 607 was the Intergenerational Poverty Taskforce, to help build a united effort to tackle the cycle of poverty in Nebraska.
While the previous version of the ADC bill was vetoed by Governor Ricketts this spring due to disagreement over the monthly payment amount, main parts of the bill survived as LB 607 and took effect on August 30th.
With the enactment of LB 627, the Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act gives more workplace accommodations for pregnant workers and recent mothers, and eliminates employer discrimination against pregnant workers. The new accommodations included in LB 627 allow for more flexible work schedules, lighter physical tasks, and facilities that suit the needs of pregnant workers or new mothers. Because about two-thirds of mothers in Nebraska help support their families by working, these gains safeguard the financial well-being of households across the state while helping businesses retain their workers.
These changes to the Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act took effect on August 30th.