You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
Nebraska
10,000 Nebraskans would lose food stamps under proposed rule change, study finds

An estimated 10,000 Nebraskans currently on food stamps — about 6% of all recipients — would lose their benefits under a Trump administration proposal to tighten eligibility under the food assistance program.

In Iowa, 16% of food stamp participants would lose benefits, one of the highest percentages of any state in the nation, while about 8% of recipients nationwide would lose benefits.

Those estimates came out of a recent state-by-state study of the plan to limit states’ ability to extend eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the nation’s primary program for feeding the needy.

Despite the Trump administration’s suggestion that the current system allows millionaires to use food stamps, most of the estimated 3.6 million people who would lose assistance nationally are living below or just above the federal poverty line and have no more than modest amounts of savings, said Sarah Lauffer of Mathematica, the New Jersey-based public policy research organization that completed the study.

In all, of the 4,500 households in Nebraska projected to lose food stamps under the proposed rule, 70% live below the poverty line, 46% have children, 20% include a person 60 or older and 13% include a person with a disability, Lauffer said.

“It’s extremely unlikely there are any millionaires in this group,” Lauffer said.

Federal SNAP law provides two basic pathways for financial eligibility for the program: meeting program-specific federal eligibility requirements or being automatically or “categorically” eligible based on receiving benefits from other specified low-income assistance programs.

Categorical eligibility, first created more than two decades ago, eliminated the requirement that households that already met financial eligibility rules in one specified low-income program also go through another eligibility determination for SNAP.

Participants in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program are among those who have been categorically eligible for food stamps, even though states make some TANF program benefits available to people who have higher incomes or higher levels of family assets than allowed under the basic provisions of food stamps.

Conservative groups have long criticized the flexibility given to states to set food stamp eligibility, noting that 100% of SNAP’s costs are picked up by the federal government.

In July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed a rule that would restrict categorical eligibility, generally requiring that food stamp recipients meet the program’s regular income and asset tests.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said states have misused the flexibility they’ve been given. The plan would save about $2 billion annually.

“For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines,” Perdue said.

While Perdue referred to categorical eligibility as a loophole, Congress has specifically declined to change the law, most recently in the 2018 budget.

Sign up for World-Herald news alerts

Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Since 1996, federal law has given states flexibility in setting TANF benefits and eligibility. About seven states don’t allow categorical eligibility. As a result, the proposed rule would have different impacts across the states.

Nebraska limits TANF to households with incomes up to 130% of the federal poverty level, or about $27,000 annually for a family of three, which is the same limit that applies to those seeking food stamps.

But Nebraska does use a higher asset threshold for TANF eligibility than under food stamps. The state allows people to have up to $25,000 in liquid assets, instead of the food stamps asset limits of $3,500 for elderly and disabled people and a $2,250 limit for families with children.

Advocates say setting higher asset limits encourages and promotes personal savings, which are needed to help families get ahead, one day own their own home and ultimately move off public benefits programs permanently.

“We want people to build up some savings so they are not bankrupted when their car breaks down or they face an unexpected health care bill,” said James Goddard of Nebraska Appleseed, a policy and advocacy organization based in Lincoln. “This rule would make it difficult for families to do that, including seniors and folks with disabilities.”

Iowa is one of 33 states that increases food stamp eligibility under TANF above 130% of the poverty level, at 160%, or about $33,000 for a family of three. Iowa also is among 36 states that set no limits at all on assets. That’s why the proposed rule change would affect Iowa at a much higher level.

When Perdue proposed the change in July, the USDA highlighted the case of a Minnesota millionaire who received food stamps for more than a year to make a point about how his state didn’t use assets to determine eligibility. The USDA said it showed how “egregious” the lack of asset restrictions is under the program.

But any such cases would be extremely rare. Federal rules already bar food stamps for anyone with an income above 200% of the federal poverty level, or about $25,000 a year for an individual, and most states, like Nebraska, set the limit below that. Goddard said it would take pretty unusual circumstances for a millionaire not to have enough annual income to be ineligible for food stamps.

“It’s just kind of a ludicrous red herring,” Goddard said. “It’s a mischaracterization of how well the program functions and an attempt to justify a really harmful rule.”

The USDA is taking public comments on the proposal through Sept. 23. Those wishing to register a comment can do so by visiting the Federal Register’s website.

The USDA will review the comments, then could rescind, amend or finalize the rule. The earliest the policy would likely take effect is by the end of the year.

Meet the Nebraska state senators

Articles
Woman controls her Tesla via a microchip inside her arm
HIGH-TECH IMPLANT

Last year, after placing an order for Tesla's recently unveiled Model 3, Amie Dansby began to ponder an ambitious idea.

Because of its many high-tech features, she knew the car was regularly compared to a computer on wheels. Dansby — a software engineer from Dallas — wondered whether it might be possible to control that mobile computer the way a growing number of people are controlling other devices, opening doors, turning on lights and retrieving food from vending machines: with a microchip implanted in her body.

Some people laughed when the 34-year-old software engineer detailed her dream, and others told her that it was impossible, a sentiment, she said, that only strengthened her resolve.

"I realized that nobody had ever done it with a Tesla, and that made it so much more of a challenge that I wanted to overcome," said Dansby, who began formulating a plan about a year ago. "But it's one of those things that's so new there's nothing on Google to help you."

To the uninitiated, Dansby's desire to control her surroundings with an implanted microchip might sound like it was plucked from some dystopian future. But microchips aren't exactly new and have been used to tag "pets and livestock" as well as track deliveries.

A growing number of companies and people are also opting to outfit their bodies with technology thatmonitors their health, controls nearby electronic devices or even lights up when activated for aesthetic purposes.

Biohax International, a Swedish company, has implanted its microchip in several thousand customers, allowing them to ride trains without using tickets, turn on the lights in their apartments and access a gym the company has partnered with. The company says the microchips are used only to enhance systems that are "completely under your control."

Proponents of medical microchips point out that the devices could contain someone's entire medical history. If a patient were unconscious or suffering from memory loss, for example, those records could prove invaluable for emergency room doctors who might be unfamiliar with the person's prescribed medications or history of illness.

Critics say the practice raises serious privacy concerns, especially when considering who would be responsible for the mountains of personal data that microchips are capable of producing about an individual's movement, behaviors and health.

When she decided that she wanted to place a chip in her arm that would allow her to control her Tesla, Dansby already had an RFID implant in her left hand that gives her basic access to her personal computer and lets her open her front door. (An RFID chip is a chip that uses radio frequency signals to exchange information.)

Dansby initially considered syncing that chip to her Tesla as well, but eventually realized controlling the car meant she'd have to place a separate chip in her opposite arm. After a series of tests, she decided to remove the chip in her Tesla key card, a credit card-like piece of plastic that allows vehicle owners to access and start their car. To do this, she dissolved the key card in acetone until the plastic casing disappeared, leaving the chip.

Dansby had the chip encased in a biopolymer, a natural material that can safely remain under her skin like the silicon that is used for breast implants. That, she said, is when the hard part really began.

"The longest part of this whole process was emailing doctors who didn't want to risk losing their medical license," Dansby said, noting she'd entered talks with three doctors, all of whom eventually backed out.

After six months of searching, Dansby turned to a tattoo shop that specializes in body modifications, where a professional piercer inserted the implant into her right arm just beneath her wrist through a hollow needle.

A few days later, after her arm had healed, Dansby was able to unlock and start her car with a wave of her arm. Her appendage has to be just a few inches from the vehicle for the chip to be effective because its range is limited. The entire process, including research, she said, took about a year.

"People think chips in your body are weird, but we think Botox and breast augmentation or Lasik are normal — and those are all body modifications," she said. "Imagine how it must have felt to be one of the first people who decided to put two silicon implants in their chest and now it's so completely forgettable."

A video Dansby made documenting her experience has racked up nearly 300,000 views.


Football
FOOTBALL
Buffs fans have a reputation with Huskers. But not all memories involve batteries and urine

Folsom Field in Boulder — and its fans — have a reputation among Husker loyalists.

And it’s, uh, not great.

We asked for the good, the bad and the ugly that have come from trips to Boulder for the Nebraska-Colorado rivalry game. And, like many things on the Internet, the bad outweighed the good.

But things are going well so far this visit, said Jeff Sheldon, a Nebraska Alumni Association spokesman. He said no one had complained to the group about their experiences in Colorado.

“The Nebraska-Colorado rivalry is a long one and a lot of people are excited to go up to Denver because of the proximity and the tradition,” Sheldon said. “I think it’s going to be a great time for our travelers.”

The Week 2 matchup on Saturday will mark the Huskers’ first trip to Boulder in a decade. Husker fans bought out the 3,000 tickets Colorado allotted and have been trying to gobble up more. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m.

Husker fans have plenty of horror stories from years past. Some are their own and others have become lore, passed down from family, friends or mere acquaintances.

Sign up for a World-Herald subscription and get full access to Husker coverage for less than $5 per month

Dozens said that they have been hit by projectiles while in Boulder, including trays of hot nachos, batteries, snowballs, beer and balloons filled with urine.

Think twice before driving your car with Nebraska plates to the stadium, some travelers warned. A handful of fans said on Twitter that they’ve had tires slashed, windshield wipers snapped and windows broken.

But others say Buffs fans aren’t as bad as ones you’ll find in Wisconsin or Missouri. And they advised steering clear of inebriated fans and the student section.

Wendy Frenzel, a past president of the UNL alumni chapter Coloradans for Nebraska, said she’s heard the horror stories. But all of her experiences have been positive.

“Somebody can have 10 great experiences, but they’re only going to remember that one bad one because it sticks in their head,” said Frenzel, a ’95 UNL grad.

She has seen on TV that Colorado students have been removed from student sections and some fans were poor sports. She hopes this game is different.

“The old mother hen part is to treat people how you want to be treated,” Frenzel said. “If somebody is starting to be a jerk, walk away. Don’t feed the jerk. Hang out with other Huskers.”

Everyone can agree on one thing: The view inside the stadium is beautiful.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado's campus and stadium are often included among the most beautiful in the country.

***

James Mussman found his 15 minutes of fame during one of the rivalry games. He and his friends painted their faces and sported homemade kilts at the 2005 Nebraska-Colorado game in Boulder.

They went nuts when they spotted an end zone camera pointed in their direction at the end of the third quarter.

Mussman, who was born and raised in Lincoln, learned after the game that his attire and antics earned him screen time during the broadcast. Lucky for him, it was recording on the VCR at his Denver home. His appearance would later make it into an ESPN montage.

During the game, Mussman said, his group encountered a few fans who mocked them and another who screamed at them to go back to Nebraska — nothing major.

Mussman, 40, and his wife, Katherine Gregg, went to the game last year in Lincoln. This weekend, they’ll be at the game in Boulder.

***

Erik Burkhart, 32, has been a Husker fan for as long as he can remember. The Lincoln resident tries to make it to at least one or two games a season.

In 2007 and 2009, he made the trip to Boulder with his parents. On both visits, they had no trouble with Colorado fans at Folsom Field.

But, knowing that fans might be “ruthless,” they sported Husker gear under neutral-colored coats.

Oh, and to be safe, they parked their car a good distance from the stadium. It was left unscathed.

“Other than that, the city itself is beautiful,” Burkhart said.

***

MATT MILLER/THE WORLD-HERALD 

Security clears members of the Colorado student section from the stadium after they were seen throwing objects on the field during the game against Nebraska in 2005.

Greg Miller, 44, has been to the rivalry game in Boulder four times. Each time he had the same takeaway: The Buffs have a beautiful campus.

Growing up in the Nebraska Panhandle, he followed the rivalry in The World-Herald and on Denver radio stations.

The 1986 game was Miller’s first Husker experience at 11 years old. He encountered cheerleaders flipping his group off, drunk students and profanity-laced signs and chants.

In 1997, he saw Scott Frost lead the Huskers to victory as quarterback. That year, students, who appeared to be under the influence, invaded the Husker section and were escorted out. The Colorado band played the Michigan fight song each time the Huskers scored. (The Wolverines were battling Nebraska for the No. 1 ranking at the time.)

This year, the Seward, Nebraska, resident is back in Boulder and hopes to “roll the dice” and find a ticket on game day. Online prices are too expensive, he said. In the stadium or not, “it’s going to be fun to see another Big Red invasion in Boulder.”

***

Dominic Schmit describes himself as a die-hard Husker fan. The 22-year-old has three CU-NU matchups under his belt. He didn’t have run-ins with unruly Buffs fans while in Boulder.

Schmit, who lives in South Sioux City, Nebraska, said the fans are annoying and obnoxious, but didn’t feel like much of a hassle. The city is nice to visit, but be prepared to take some flak from Colorado fans mocking Nebraska losses.

“I always manage to smile and walk away because obviously the Big Red is going to win,” Schmit said.

Sign up for Big Red Today news alerts

Get a daily Husker news roundup, recruiting updates and breaking news in your inbox.

Photos: Nebraska vs. Colorado at Folsom Field through the years

Articles
Democrats race to embody self-care
Embrace of yoga, veganism, meditation and more can appeal to voters and help candidates deal with stress

CAMPAIGN 2020

How many yogis does it take to fill a Democratic presidential primary?

On a single-night, triple-header CNN event this summer, two out of three candidates professed their love of the self-care arts.

"I love doing hot yoga!" Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio said during one of the news network's many "Presidential Town Halls" while detailing the multiple seven-day silent meditation retreats he's gone on. Rep. Seth Moulton, who has since dropped out of the race, echoed Ryan's sentiments.

It's not enough for candidates to feel America's pain right now; they apparently have to prove that they can feel their own pain first. We're in the Kale Smoothie Era of Democratic politics.

They seem to be responding to the sizable wellness-oriented portion of the American electorate that's now a Twilight Zone away from a few election cycles ago, when politicians were scrambling to be the one you'd most want to knock back a beer with.

If the #selfcare movement has an avatar in this 2020 campaign, it is, of course, Marianne Williamson: spiritual adviser to Oprah, author of 13 self-help books (four of them No. 1 New YorkTimes bestsellers, including 1992's "A Return to Love"), and the only person in the world powerful enough to help Aerosmith's Steven Tyler break his drug and alcohol habits.

But Williamson is hardly alone in a field of vegetable-munching, weightlifting, mantra-chanting Democratic hopefuls out to show not tell that they can be America's healthy alternative to President Donald Trump.

And because this is an age when follower count presumably leads to votes, these private, individualistic rituals have taken on the cast of 24-hour Instagram theater:

Sen. Cory Booker, a vegan who meditates daily ("I find it centers me," he said), ate fried PB&J sandwiches on a stick instead of the standard pork chop on a stick at the Iowa State Fair.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a vegetarian, has done an interview in the ocean while surfing and is the only female to take part in a hardcore circuit training workout for select members of the House.

Sen. Kamala Harris is a professed lover of SoulCycle, the spin-class-slashlifestyle-choice where you shout out affirmations and strive for both your personal best and euphoria all in 45 sweaty minutes.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who dropped out of the race after failing to qualify for the September debate, has done bench presses with 25-pound weights for the benefit of reporters .

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced that he was running via a Twitter video of him running in a charity race.

Former Rep. John Delaney, easily the most jacked of all the candidates, regularly posts Twitter videos of his workouts doing dead lifts ("Got to be strong to beat Trump") or doing 10 pullups ("Easy!").

Then there's Beto O'Rourke, who, as he contemplated running for president, took his own journey of self-discovery that took him all the way to the Santuario de Chimayo, a chapel built atop an ancient holy site in northern New Mexico and home to what is believed to be magical dirt with healing properties.

"I went in," O'Rourke said. "And ate some dirt."

O'Rourke is so wellness-oriented that he's held an 8-mile bicycling town hall and inspired a recurring Jimmy Fallon Web sketch called "Beto Breaks the Internet" in which Fallon impersonates O'Rourke doing, say, an Instagram story of his "12th workout of the day." In it, Fallon as O'Rourke declares, "Doctors say the chemical makeup of my sweat is closer to Gatorade than water, so I just leave it on the machine just in case anyone needs a little boost."

"Wellness is not an idea that is exclusively left, but definitely the 2016 election was when you really saw the term explode on the left with the idea that the world was just too traumatic and too difficult and you have to take care of yourself," said Amy Larocca, a New York Magazine writer who's working on a book on the wellness movement for Knopf.

The search term "selfcare," according to Google Trends, hit a five-year high in the week after the election and peaked in September 2018 during the Senate hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. More than 6 in 10 Americans report the current political climate to be a stressor, according to a 2018 report from the American Psychological Association.

"Mental wellness is by far the biggest trend in the U.S. wellness market — whether it's the big spike in meditation, the explosion in cannabis and CBD, or the new obsession with sleep," said Beth McGroarty of the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit that researches the $4.2 trillion global wellness economy. "We seem to desire more than anything to be unconscious, the only time we're not in front of screens, social media, and divisive, insane news cycles."

McGroarty says there's also been an increase in interest in what might be considered "woo-woo spiritual wellness" such as astrology, crystals and tarot reading since Trump's election.

A 1988 quote from African American lesbian poet Audre Lorde can be found paraphrased and misappropriated all over Instagram: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." She was referring to her life of marginalization because of her identity. This moment probably wasn't what she hoped to inspire.

By partaking in wellness culture, Democrats are in manyways speaking to their base, which is not the same base that delighted in Bill Clinton leisurely jogging to McDonald's.

"The Democratic Party this time around is not trying very hard so far to appeal to working-class voters because in Democratic primaries there aren't as many as there used to be," said William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who's worked on six presidential campaigns, including Clinton's. "What you see in the concentration of yoga, meditation and working out is classic tropes and habits of the urban upper middle class."

The U.S. wellness industry is set to reach a market value of $179 billion in 2020, and it stands to reason that people who can pay for yoga class have enough spare change to donate to a political campaign.

Williamson has met constituents in a yoga studio. And Ryan — the Ohio congressman who authored the 2012 self-help tome "A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit" — held a yoga fundraiser in New York City. ("We raised good money!")

There's other coding involved, too, Larocca asserts. Candidates can signal who they are by what kind of wellness activities they engage in. "There's an idea that it's a progressive thing to look after yourself. A lot of these wellness tropes get associated with political movements: Veganism is associated with an interest in climate change, and good health is associated with a moral correctness now."

Another reason we're seeing so many Democratic candidates seemingly obsessed with wellness might be simply that they need it.

"Campaigns are exhausting. They frazzle your soul. ... It's like trying to ride a bicycle in an earthquake," Galston said.

Candidates might arrive at one state in the morning and wind up in another at the end of the day, all while trying to do their day jobs as senators, governors, etc., and maintaining a family life. And that's in an average year without 20-some candidates.

"Decades ago, presidential campaigns didn't go on for two years," said Kevin Lewis, who worked on Barack Obama's first campaign and was his post-presidency spokesman. Exercise or an outlet such as meditation or journaling is vital, he said. "You're burning the candle at both ends and if you don't find ways to put that energy in the right place, it will manifest itself in the wrong place, like in the middle of a debate."

It's rather notable that none of the front-runners seem to be overly performative about their self-care routines.

Sen. Bernie Sanders once talked about chopping wood for exercise in 2016.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has challenged Trump to a pushup contest and said he'd "take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him" if they were in high school. (Biden later said he regretted that tough talk.)

Elizabeth Warren goes for 6-mile walks with her dog, Bailey.

Sen. Michael Bennet may have the best strategy of all. He talks about meditating sometimes, sure, but offers himself up as a kind of salve for the country, the human equivalent of burning sage from sea to shining sea: "If you elect me president," he tweeted recently, "I promise youwon't have to think about me for 2 weeks at a time. ... So you can go raise your kids and live your lives."