COVID-19 impacting unemployment offices, slowing the sign up process

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(MGN Photo)(KWQC)
Published: May. 7, 2020 at 4:17 PM CDT
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The virus responsible for Nebraska’s high unemployment numbers is also playing a role in slowing the process for those filing for unemployment benefits.

Signs have replaced the lines of people, who once stood in front of Heartland Workforce Solutions. The coronavirus has closed the doors, slowing down the process of helping people sign up for unemployment benefits.

“I think it was April 7th because we had had a number of people positive for COVID so we closed for a week for deep cleaning,” said Erin Porterfield with Heartland Workforce Solutions.

Erin Porterfield is the Executive Director with Heartland Workforce Solutions, she says dealing with the virus and the restrictions to keep people safe from the virus makes their job harder.

“Yes it’s slowing it down when we are adhering to governor rickets health directives right now which is six foot distance ten people in a room that makes it a challenge to serve as many people as possible,” said Porterfield.

The Department Of Labor moved its personnel out and moved over to the Metropolitan Community College Omaha campus to continue to serve those applying for benefits.

Those employees are dealing with record numbers of people applying for unemployment benefits. It is hard work and it is taking a toll on those who help.

“It does take an emotional toll on us because these are our friends and neighbors and we want them to feel secure not only with their finances but also with their future but right now we just have to take everything one at a time,” said Lex Ann Roach with the Nebraska Department of Labor. “No one has been forgotten everyone is pulling for their fellow Nebraskans to get what they have coming to them.”

According to the Nebraska Department of Labor, there was a 20 percent decrease in unemployment insurance claims this week compared to last. Last week there were 8,002 claims. The week of April 4th saw 26,539 claims, a month later the week of May 2nd saw 6,351 claims.

The highest counts of initial claims this week were in manufacturing. This is the first week this industry has topped the charts. Most other industries saw a decrease this week.

The Heartland Workforce Solution’s office on 57th and Ames is closed to the public, but you can find help at Omaha Metropolitan Community College Fort Omaha campus at 30th and Fort. Look for building number seven.