80,000+ Nebraskans Have Filed for Unemployment in the Last Month

April 17, 2020, 8:34 a.m. ·

(Joe McMullen, NET Nebraska)

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The number of Nebraskans filing for unemployment continues to grow. The Nebraska Department of Labor reported 15,994 new unemployment insurance claims last week. The U.S. Department of Labor reported 16,391 new unemployment insurance claims last week, slightly higher because that also includes workers who filed because their hours had been reduced.

Either way that's about 10,000 fewer new claims than the previous week, but still almost 2,700 percent more than this time last year. About 83,000 Nebraskans have filed unemployment claims since the state started feeling COVID-19 impacts in mid-March.

John Albin is Nebraska’s Labor Commissioner. He says the state Department of Labor has added staff to help process claims, increasing the number of people adjudicating claims from 34 to approximately 200. "Seventy-five percent at 28 days I think is our current goal," Albin said, referring to how quickly they hope to have claims processed."I think that's attainable. It'll be a push, but I think it's attainable."

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Nebraska Dept of Labor web site, with unemployment claim filing information

It hasn’t been easy. Nebraskans have contacted NET News to voice concerns about issues like difficulty reaching a Department of Labor staffer and long waits for a payment. "My grandson was furloughed from his restaurant job and filed for unemployment insurance in early March. It’s been six weeks and he has received one payment," one person wrote in a comment for the NET News program "Speaking of Nebraska."

“We're not at a level of performance that we would like to be at. We're probably doing just fine considering the circumstances of two years' worth of claims in a four-week period," Albin said. "But I understand when you're on the other end of the process and you're waiting on that check, counting on that check, that it can be an anxious time. We're doing our best to try and resolve those claims as quickly as possible.”

Albin said the high number of claims from restaurant, bar and hotel workers presents a challenge. "It's not uncommon for people to move, and especially waitresses to move between companies or between restaurants, waiters and waitresses," Albin said. "We have to adjudicate every separation they have during that base period because it all determines the ultimate amount that they're going to receive in benefits."

Albin says one common question his department gets is what’s needed to file a claim online. “If you have your social security number and a driver's license or a state ID, you can pretty much file your claim without any additional information when you go online,” Albin said.