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Unemployed workers prepare as supplemental pandemic unemployment benefits come to an end

Posted at 8:07 AM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 09:07:19-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Those who have been jobless throughout the pandemic will be losing an additional $300 a week in unemployment benefits come Saturday.

Nebraska is leaving the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program three months before it is set to expire, leaving some industries hurting more than others.

“We bring magic to the stage; we bring enjoyment to the community," said Destiny Stark who reprsents the local chapter of the International Alliance of Stage Employees (IATSE).

They’re behind some of Omaha’s favorite events, but for most of the past 18 months, the members of Omaha’s theater stage employees labor union have gone without work.

They’re latest project has been creating the pools currently being used by Olympic hopefuls, but after that, they’re not sure when their next pay day could be.

And now that Nebraska is leaving the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program, making ends meet is a real concern.

“After the swim trials leave, there’s not a whole lot of work for the summer," Stark said. "So for us to loose that $300, that means folks can’t afford to take care of their kids or by medication or whatever the case may be or even pay our bills.”

During his announcement last month, Governor Pete Ricketts said there were plenty of jobs in Nebraska.

“We have about 39,000 job openings out there right now on our Nebraska works website," Ricketts said. "We’ve got about 15,000 people receiving benefits ,so we’ve got more than two jobs for every one person on there.”

He also said he felt the $300 a week was keeping people from applying for these open positions.

But Dr. Chris Decker who teaches economics at UNO says there will likely only be a small increase in jobs being filled when the supplemental unemployment ends.

“Support programs can marginally discourage people from working, but it's not a big effect," Decker said.

Decker says while Nebraska does have a low unemployment rate, lower now than it was in June of 2019, the big issue the state is facing economically is a lack in labor force.

Retirement and out of state opportunities are what is leaving many of these jobs empty and workers with limited options.

“If we want to attract business to the state of Nebraska and the city of Omaha, and we have a relatively limited labor force available for businesses, that might discourage that new capitol from coming into the state," Decker said.

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