Omaha-metro unemployment benefit applications surge as pandemic continues

Published: Mar. 26, 2020 at 4:10 PM CDT
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, and the people helping them file are using creative ways to deal with those looking for help as benefits could take a while to get to the people who are out of work.

The parking lot at 57th and Ames streets is the new waiting room for people waiting to file for unemployment benefits.

There's a Department of Labor employee outside of Heartland Workforce Solutions helping people with the process -- applicants then wait in their car until they’re called inside.

Workforce can only have eight applicants in the building at a time.

But the process has improved from last week -- customer service is better.

Erin Porterfield with Heartland said, “When folks call here at Heartland Workforce Solutions they’ll get a live person on the phone. Some of their questions can be answered when they call us here.”

“We’re noticing that this is the first time that many people have applied for unemployment and some folks do not have email. Some people have never used a computer and the way the application is, people need help. We’re here for them.”

Jake Vanosdol has never filed for unemployment before. He’s an automotive technician. The virus slowed business so they had to let him go -- now he needs help.

“I won't be able to pay my rent next month. I live paycheck to paycheck. My girlfriend, she's working. She just got a job but it takes both of us to pay our bills,” Vanosdol said.

But it will take a while for Jake and others who file for unemployment to get money in their pockets.

“We’ve been told that it won't likely be earlier than 21 days and that is a lot for folks who have been laid off.”

Those applying for unemployment benefits appreciate the help -- and everyone involved in this process understands that dealing with the fallout from this virus is a first-time event for all of us.

Department of Labor officials encourages applicants to apply online. There's also a live chat option available.