20 years ago — when Seinfeld and the Macarena were riding high, and Oprah was just starting a book club –something important was being hatched in a basement in the South Bottoms neighborhood of Lincoln, Nebraska. This spring, as Nebraska Appleseed enters its third decade, it has become a remarkable force for justice and opportunity in the Midwest.
Using litigation, legislation, regulation and grass-roots organizing, Nebraska Appleseed has racked up a string of victories on behalf of low-income people:
- Restored prenatal care coverage for all low-income children in Nebraska, regardless of their mother’s immigration status.
- Extended support for young people who age out of foster care.
- Ensuring that parents on public assistance can pursue education to help move out of poverty, and won’t be stripped of Medicaid benefits if they can’t meet their job search requirements
- Child care assistance for more working families (pulling Nebraska up from last place in the country)
- Temporary subsidies to help businesses to provide work skills to low-income parents
- Allowing young immigrant “DREAMers” to apply for driver’s licenses, so that Nebraska was no longer the only state to refuse them.
“Nebraska is a whole lot different because of Appleseed,” says founder Milo Mumgaard, who now leads Legal Aid of Nebraska. “Appleseed has had a huge impact on how people think of issues and how politicians ultimately have to think about issues.”
This spring I visited with current Executive Director Becky Gould and her never-quit staff, which has grown to 27 and overlooks Lincoln from the 9th floor of the Terminal Building. And I had dinner with four remarkable Latina immigrants, Nebraska Appleseed organizers who are working to give other immigrants the tools they need to build better lives.
What’s next? Convincing lawmakers to take advantage of Medicaid funds to help 97,000 low-income working people get health insurance. Strengthening the rights of immigrant workers in meatpacking plants. Voter registration and organizing to help the working poor make their case with Nebraska policy makers.
“You can be on the front lines of very important things in Nebraska (with) an ability to shape the future,” says Gould. What’s clear is that countless Nebraskans are building better lives because of Nebraska Appleseed.
This legacy of victories also come about because of support from people like you. We encourage you to take a moment to support work like this that is helping so many people build better lives full of hope, opportunity and justice.