Nebraska brings back job search requirements for unemployed

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraskans who lost their jobs will once again have to actively look for new employment to maintain their benefits, state officials said as they announced plans to resume Gov. Pete Ricketts’ signature reemployment program.

The Nebraska Department of Labor said it will impose job-search requirements for recipients starting July 12.

In an executive order issued Monday, Ricketts said Nebraska is well into its gradual reopening of the state economy and employers are now listing more than 30,000 available jobs. Nebraska has seen a slowdown in new coronavirus cases and the state's hospitals still have a large amount of space to treat new patients, according to the state's online tracking portal.

“These conditions will facilitate the prosperity of Nebraskans and the economy,” he said in the order.

Ricketts, a Republican, suspended the job-search requirements on March 15 as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close and lay off workers, leading to a surge in unemployment. The suspension had originally been slated to cover unemployment claims through Aug. 1.

At its peak in early April, Nebraska had 26,539 new jobless claims in one week.

Nebraska's unemployment rate more than doubled to 8.4% in April, compared to the prior month. But the state's unemployment rate has stayed well below the national average. In May, Nebraska had the nation's lowest unemployment rate, at 5.2%. The national rate at the time was 13.3%.

Even so, Nebraska's unemployment rate remains higher than normal because of the pandemic. The state had 56,219 people with continuing unemployment claims as of late June, according to the Nebraska Department of Labor. Those recipients will soon have to show that they're actively searching for work by applying for jobs, attending job-skills workshops, meeting with career counselors and other possible steps.

Ricketts created the first-in-the-nation “reemployment program” in 2015. The program imposes a work-search requirement but also includes one-on-one job-counseling services, a state-run database of unfilled jobs and personalized plans intended to help each unemployed person find work.

The requirements apply to workers receiving regular unemployment and the additional $600 weekly pandemic unemployment benefits. They also apply to self-employed workers receiving special pandemic unemployment benefits.

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