COVID-19 Still Driving High Unemployment Insurance Filings in Nebraska

April 9, 2020, 7:15 p.m. ·

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Nebraska unemployment claims continue to grow. There were more than 26,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance last week.

John Albin, Nebraska Labor Commissioner (Courtesy photo)

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The numbers are staggering. COVID-19 impacts have caused more than 66,000 Nebraskans to file initial claims for unemployment in the last three weeks. About 26,500 last week alone, the highest total yet and a more than 4445 percent increase from this week last year.

"I think we'll continue to see above average numbers of claims" says Nebraska’s Labor Commissioner John Albin. "I'm cautiously optimistic that this last week will have been the crest, and the number of new claims will start to drop off after that. But we'll have to wait and see."

Albin says the state Department of Labor continues to try and meet the typical U.S. Department of Labor standard for paying most claims within 21 days of filing.

"We're doing well so far," Albin says. "We paid 12,000 claims in the last week, and over 10,000 of those were within seven days. But I'm not going to mislead you into saying that's anything other than an anomaly. We're going to have to push hard to hit the 21 to 28 day level. We're hiring up some people, we've got some loaned employees coming over from other agencies here within the state. We're going to contract out another 100 positions to try and process all the claim work, because we realize that people are needing the money now, and so we're going to move everything we can to try and stay within that 21 to 28 day range."

We've more than doubled the number of people that are actually adjudicating the claims," Albin adds. "We've brought in additional people to scan records into the system, we're using the Secretary of State's office to get records scanned in."

Frustration in the amount of time it takes to receive unemployment benefits was expressed by these Nebraskans who e-mailed questions for the NET News "Speaking of Nebraska" program this week:

  • "I have filed for unemployment as a furloughed employee due to COVID-19. I have yet to receive unemployment insurance payments. I realize the huge influx of claims but we all need money for food, shelter, and electricity."
  • "Why are people who are not working right now having to wait so long for unemployment payments?"

"(I) just ask that they have a little bit of patience," Albin says. "We are trying very, very hard to get payments moved as quickly as we can.

Albin says now that his agency has Federal government guidance and is tweaking necessary software, it’s “cautiously optimistic” they’ll be able to start distributing $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Payments by the first part of next week.