Nebraska’s new unemployment requirements confuse those with jobs waiting for them

Frustrations ran high at the metro's workforce center Tuesday as a new requirement for unemployment caused confusion.
Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 11:13 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Frustrations were running high at an area workforce center Tuesday as workers left jobless by the COVID-19 pandemic confused about a new requirement to collect unemployment.

Standing outside for hours only made matters worse.

Jean Godfrey was at Heartland Workforce Solution when the doors opened at 9 a.m. Tuesday and was quickly left waiting.

“I think they’re on number 35 or so and I’m number 98 so I’ll be here for a while,” she said.

Godfrey, a school bus driver, has been receiving pandemic unemployment since schools shut down this spring. But when she went to file this time around, she was confused.

”At one point, they did ask me for a job search, and I was like, ‘What?' — I’m going back to my old job, so I thought I’m come down here to see what I have to do,” she said.

Under the state’s new rule, those receiving pandemic unemployment for 16 weeks have to start searching for another job in order to get another unemployment check — unless your employer sends in a request to the state saying you’re coming back to work soon.

It’s all proving to be confusing for both the worker and their employers, and the wait is long to get answers.

“I got here at 2:45 this morning, and there was already a line all the way back to the end of that sidewalk,” one client told 6 News.

Ted Carter and his colleagues also drive school buses. They have been receiving pandemic-related unemployment but will be returning to work next month.

”We told them that, and they’re still requiring us to put in applications for other jobs,” Carter said. “Well, we shouldn’t have to because like I said, we’re going back to work.”

6 News spoke with Godfrey’s employer on Tuesday and was told the state approved the request to extend her unemployment benefits a bit longer.

6 News also reached out the labor department, asking why employees like Godfrey and Carter are still forced to look for other work. The department spokesperson said they had been in contact with the company Tuesday but couldn’t confirm whether Carter’s request had been approved.

For these bus drivers who have been sidelined for four months and are now so close to getting back to work, the process is very frustrating.

“They’re trying to tell us we have to apply for at least five jobs, but we shouldn’t have to we’re going back to work.”

The governor’s office said those sidelined by the pandemic but are getting back to work soon should make sure their employer has updated their anticipated return online.

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