The Right Choice for Nebraska Workers

Nebraska Appleseed has been a long time advocate for working families.  In particular, we are supportive of programs that are responsive to family needs in difficult economic times.  Unemployment Insurance is one such program, and last week Nebraska’s State Senators gave first round approval to a bill (LB 1020) that would make it even stronger.

Unemployment Insurance is paid into by both workers and employers to protect families against periods of unemployment.  Weekly benefits help families to continue to pay rent, buy groceries, and put gas in the car.  More importantly, these benefits help families stay financially afloat while they look for work.

The Nebraska Unicameral made the right choice last week when they supported the bill that would allow our state to accept $43.6 million dollars in federal funding to update our Unemployment Insurance program and shore up our unemployment insurance trust fund (the reserve fund from which benefits are paid out.)  Specifically, the legislation puts American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to work for Nebraska, and makes three positive changes for low-income and lower skilled workers:

  1. About 2,100 additional low-income workers will qualify for unemployment benefits because of a change in how earnings are calculated.
  2. Workers who lost jobs in “declining occupations” will be able to keep their unemployment insurance benefits while they participate in training to improve their skills.
  3. Part-time workers will be able to look for part-time work, instead of full time work, and still retain benefits.  This is particularly helpful when workers must balance family and job responsibilities.

These changes in the bill support Nebraska workers now – when many people are still struggling to find work as the economy recovers.  The bill also strengthens the trust fund and is likely to decrease business tax rates in the short term.  All in all, we believe it is the right choice for Nebraska workers, Nebraska businesses, and the Nebraska state unemployment insurance trust fund – now and in the future.

For more coverage of the legislation, see articles in the Lincoln Journal Star and the Omaha World Herald

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