State would reimburse cost of educator PPE

The Appropriations Committee heard testimony Feb. 28 on a bill that would create a program to cover the cost of personal protective equipment purchased by Nebraska school employees.

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks
Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks

Under LB1182, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, the state Department of Education would be required to create the School Employees Pandemic Protection Program. The program would be funded by $10 million of the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated to Nebraska.

The program could pay a maximum of $200 to Nebraska school employees to cover the cost of PPE purchased during the pandemic and would be established by Aug. 1, 2022.

Pansing Brooks said the bill would demonstrate appreciation for educators who have done so much to keep students safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to establish an environment that takes care of our teachers and school personnel,” she said.

Robert Miller, an Omaha public school teacher, testified in favor of the bill on behalf of the Nebraska State Education Association. Teachers “reached deeper” into their own pockets than normal during the pandemic to provide masks, makeshift dividers, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to keep classrooms safe, he said.

“The learning continued because, as difficult as it was, educators made it happen,” Miller said.

Linda Freye, a Lincoln kindergarten teacher, also supported LB1182. She said it became clear early in the pandemic that the masks supplied by her school would be an insufficient supply for the young students.

“I just went out and started buying masks,” Freye said, adding that her out-of-pocket expenditures, which normally are around $1,000 a year, likely doubled during the pandemic.

“I’m your average teacher, just trying to do a good job,” she said.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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