Unemployment Benefits: A lifeline for Nebraskans struggling in hard times

Unemployment benefits: A lifeline for Nebraskans struggling in hard times

The Coronavirus pandemic is impacting Nebraskans’ lives in many ways, not least of which is the challenge in maintaining employment. Last week, the Nebraska Department of Labor revealed more than 25,000 Nebraskans had filed for unemployment benefits. It is fortunate that our leaders have taken action at the state and federal levels, and benefits are more available and more generous. In this blog, you’ll find more information about unemployment benefits in Nebraska.

What are unemployment benefits?

Unemployment benefit programs provide cash benefits to eligible workers that lose employment through no fault of their own. Benefits are generally based on a percentage of an employee’s earnings over a period of time.

Who is eligible for unemployment benefits?

In general, those that have lost employment through no fault, or had hours reduced, will be eligible for benefits.

It is important to note that benefits have recently been extended to groups previously ineligible, such as part-time, and self-employed workers, including contractors and those in the “gig” economy. There is a special, new program for these individuals.

For part-time and self-employed workers to be eligible, they must certify they are fully or partially unemployed and are unable to work due to a coronavirus-related circumstance. This includes but is not limited to: 

  • Becoming ill, taking care of a loved one that is ill, or being quarantined;
  • Having an employer close because of coronavirus;
  • Being forced to quit employment because of coronavirus (not including voluntarily quitting out of fear of contracting the virus).

Unfortunately, workers must be a U.S. citizen or a “qualified alien” to be eligible for benefits. This excludes undocumented workers, and those under deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) status and temporary protected status (TPS).

If in doubt about eligibility, apply for benefits (see below).

How have benefits changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

There are a number of recent, positive changes to unemployment benefits.

  1. Many requirements have been loosened by the Governor, from March 22 – May 2, including waiving the requirement to search for work and starting to pay benefits for the first week of eligibility. 
  2. Many benefit recipients will receive an additional $600 per week, in addition to the usual calculated benefits.
    Note: $600 increase will not impact eligibility for Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  3. Benefit recipients can receive an additional 13 weeks of benefits after receiving the state maximum number of weeks (13 weeks in addition to the 26 week maximum in a 12 month period).

How to file for benefits?

The Department of Labor allows individuals to file a claim for unemployment benefits online. Note: This may take 2-4 weeks to process your claim, since thousands of Nebraskans have recently filed for benefits. Your benefits should be retroactive to the relevant time of filing.

For more information, visit the Department of Labor’s website, and view their Frequently Asked Questions.

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