Jun 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Nebraska governor: Counties that require masks in government buildings won't get virus relief

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts speaking at CPAC 2017.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts speaking at CPAC 2017. Photo: Mike Theiler/AFP via Getty Images

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts told county governments they will not receive federal coronavirus relief funds if they require people to wear masks while inside state courthouses and other local government offices, the Omaha World-Herald reports.

Why it matters: Local officials in Lincoln, the state’s second-largest city, were preparing to require people to wear a mask when entering government buildings, but scrapped the drafted rules because of the CARES Act money at stake.

What they're saying: “The governor encourages people to wear a mask, but does not believe that failure to wear a mask should be the basis for denying taxpayers’ services," Ricketts' spokesman Taylor Gage said, according to the World-Herald.

  • “We’d like to have a little bit more ability to call the shots in our courthouse, but we realize that he has the right to set the rules,” Lancaster County Board member Deb Schorr said.
  • In Dakota County, which is home to a Tyson meatpacking plant and has been hit hard by the virus, county assessor Jeff Curry said the message from the governor is “you better do what I want you to do.”
  • “It sure would have been nice to be able to sit down with our health director and County Board and have a conversation about what to do, without being mandated to do it,” Curry said.

The big picture: The reopening of the economy after weeks of lockdowns has pitted states against local governments. Some city and county officials argue that a more localized approach to coronavirus is necessary because the level of outbreaks can vary throughout the state.

  • In Texas, mayors of nine of the state's biggest cities asked Gov. Greg Abbott in a letter Tuesday to grant them the authority to mandate wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic, the Texas Tribune reports.
  • Abbott announced that he was allowing the state's stay-at-home order to expire in April and issued an executive order that prevents local governments from penalizing people who don't wear masks in public.
  • South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem prevented municipal governments inside the state from issuing stay-at-home warnings, even as a meat-packing plant in Sioux Falls became the largest single hotspot of new cases in the country in April.

Go deeper: Oklahoma among the states with highest coronavirus case growth

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