Nebraska Governor Says Local Governments Won’t Receive Coronavirus Funding If They Require Masks

TOPLINE

Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska has reportedly informed local governments that they will not receive any of the possible $100 million in federal Covid-19 money if their “customers” are required to wear masks in courthouses and other local administrative offices.

President Donald Trump during a meeting with Governors and members of Congress in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 12: President Donald Trump during a meeting with Governors and members of … [+] Congress on April, 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. At left are Sen. John Thune(R-SD), and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, far left. (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Washington Post via Getty Images

KEY FACTS

“The governor encourages people to wear a mask,” according to Ricketts’ spokesman Taylor Gage, “but does not believe that failure to wear a mask should be the basis for denying taxpayers’ services.”

According to the Omaha World-Herald, the mandate has been poorly received by some officials critical of the loss of local control, and the fact it conflicts with the advice of health experts, who have stressed the importance of wearing masks.

Yet, with millions of dollars at stake, local officials throughout Nebraska say they have little choice but to comply with the governor’s order.

Texas and Arizona are two of several states that have seen a recent spike in Covid-19 infections amid contentious controversy around the issue of face coverings.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, both Republicans, have said masks should be worn in public, but neither has issued any statewide mandate that masks have to be worn in public.

In a pair of interviews Wednesday, President Trump said the coronavirus is “dying out” and “fading away” despite approximately 800 Americas per day dying from the disease and five separate states having reported their largest one-day increases in new cases this week.

Trump’s comments came three days ahead of a controversial campaign rally scheduled for Saturday in Oklahoma, where infections are rising, and officials are appealing with him to cancel or hold it outdoors.

Vice President Mike Pence penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday entitled, “There Isn’t a Coronavirus’ Second Wave.'”

Key Background:

Per the Omaha World-Herald, the issue of mandated face coverings first arose late last month when Ricketts issued a guidance document to counties and other local municipalities, advising that if they wanted any of the CARES Act money that was allocated to the state, their offices needed to reopen to the public by June 15. Ricketts’ CARES Act guidance indicated that counties, cities and utility districts could set social distancing standards and control access to their buildings, but added: “Customers may be encouraged to wear face coverings, but may not be refused service for failure to do so.”

Critical Quote:

“Counties are not prohibited from requiring masks, but if they want CARES Act money, they have to be fully open, and that means they cannot deny service for not wearing a mask,” said Taylor Gage, the governor’s spokesman.

Tangent: 

According to the Dallas Morning News, Gov. Greg Abbott appeared to give his blessing Wednesday to a ruling by a county judge in San Antonio to fine businesses if they don’t make their employees and visitors wear masks. Appearing on KWTX-TV in Waco, Abbott said Wolff had “figured out” that the authority to demand wearing masks was lying in plain sight — in Abbott’s executive orders on Covid-19 — but only through indirect coercion by private business. “There has been a plan in place all along that all that was needed was for local officials to actually read the plan that was issued by the state of Texas,” he said. “It turned out earlier today that the county judge in Bexar County finally figured that out.” The city of Austin’s mayor issued a similar order late Wednesday. Per The Texas Tribune, local leaders had been asking for the ability to impose more strict mask orders, but Abbott never publicly mentioned that one option was ordering businesses to require them.

Further Reading:

Ricketts tells local governments they won’t get federal COVID-19 money if they require masks (Omaha World-Herald)

Texas And Arizona Keep Setting Coronavirus Hospitalization Records (Forbes) 

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