OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska hasn't had an extension on unemployment benefits since 1981. But the state's current unemployment rate of a little over 5 percent triggered an extension of the benefits program by the Nebraska Department of Labor.
What we know about unemployment filings in Nebraska is that the system was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of people applying when the pandemic began. Bob Scudder and Linda Gratton decided to go to Heartland Workforce Solutions Tuesday to see what the holdup was after being out of work and out of income for months.
"I called in Monday and I was number 132 in the cue. So I decided that might be a little too long so I thought it might be easier to come here and wait an hour," Scudder said as he waited outside in line at Heartland Workforce Solutions.
"A lot of times it's not just they come in because they have some questions about this specific thing with unemployment... just through conversation lots of other pieces come up that we might be able to help with," Heartland Workforce Solutions one-stop operator Vickie Gregorio said.
Heartland Workforce Solutions is a non-profit assisting individuals during the pandemic with things like housing, food programs, unemployment and new employment opportunities.
"We have programs that can help with funding for training or education if they have lost their job and want to get into another kind of job. Then we do also have right now employers, just one a time, to do interviews with people," Gregorio said.
A new question the non-profit has seen from individuals is regarding a 13 week extension on benefits announced by the Nebraska Department of Labor.
"It's been a statute for many, many years that when we reach certain levels of unemployment that it automatically kicks on for an additional 13 weeks of extended benefits," Nebraska labor commissioner John Albin said.
The trigger for the extended benefits to kick in was a 5 percent unemployment rate. Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for May was 5.2 percent, seasonally adjusted. The extended benefits are for those who have exhausted their regular benefits and their Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits. Under federal law, the program offers up to an additional 13 weeks of benefits.
"[You get] up to 26 weeks on your regular claim, then you go into the PEUC draw an additional 13 weeks under that, and then you are eligible to move over into the Extended Benefits (EB) program," Albin said.
The labor department will be notifying those eligible for the extension this week. Many of these individuals will be those who applied months ago, as far back as last fall. But any relief, especially right now, is sure to provide some stability for Nebraskans - for even the simplest tasks.
"You really have to watch what you're going to spend [money] on. Mostly it's groceries," Gratton said as she stood in line at Heartland Workforce Solutions.
Additional information regarding extended benefits : https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/extenben.asp
Extended benefits eligibility criteria : https://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/UIPL/UIPL_24-20.pdf