Gov. Ricketts: Mask requirement will cost counties money

Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 11:50 AM CDT
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$125 billion dollars of COVID-19 relief funds are in the states control, but Governor Pete Ricketts says if counties don't follow certain requirements they won't see any of that money.

There are 93 counties in Nebraska, some hit harder by COVID-19 than others.

If a county requires visitors to wear a mask into county buildings, the governor says they won't be eligible for the funds.

"If they don't want to follow the guidelines they won't be eligible for the CARES Act money,” said Governor Pete Ricketts, “But that's certainly their prerogative to do that."

Ricketts preaches wearing masks in public at his weekly press conferences.

However, it’ll cost counties if they mandate them.

It's a decision that county commissioners would have liked to stay within local control.

"I was disappointed that it took the decision away from us," said Rick Vest, District 5 Commissioner, Lancaster County.

"We know best what is happening in our counties,” said Deb Schoor, District 3 Commissioner, Lancaster County. “We're working with our health directors, our health officials, but realizing our governor is in control of these funds, and we will make sure we will do everything that we can."

Commissioners Rick Vest and Deb Schoor said they think wearing masks helps visitors and workers feel safer in public.

"Masks are an effective tool for us in times like this, and also a sign of respect for other citizens,” said Vest.

Vest and Shoor said they understand how important these funds are for every county in Nebraska.

"The expenses to local jurisdictions have been huge and unanticipated,” said Schoor.

"If we want the funding, and we do to be responsible, we will comply with the governor's decision,” said Vest.

As far as the CARES Act money, according to Schoor, the state is in the process of developing a system for how counties can apply for the funds.

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