Program would require jobless to have plan to find work

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska residents who receive unemployment benefits would be required to devise and stick to plans for finding work or risk losing lose those benefits, under a new program announced by the governor.

The plan outlined by Gov. Pete Ricketts’ office on Tuesday would require nearly all people who receive unemployment benefits to enroll in individualized re-employment plans with the Nebraska Department of Labor. State Labor Commissioner John Albin said that, previously, only unemployed people who officials thought likely to exhaust their benefits were required to have re-employment plans.

“We are now taking a more aggressive approach to accelerate the re-employment process for all job seekers to ensure that all of our agency’s customers have the highest level of support as they seek re-employment,” Albin said in a news release.

Job coaches will work with people to make sure they stick with their plans, said Lorena Hernandez, administrator of employment and training for the state Labor Department. Those who lose eligibility can take steps to requalify, she said.

The program takes effect Oct. 1 and is financed by a $354,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The new grant will pay for 12 more job coaches across the state. People who can’t visit state Labor Department offices will be able to interact with the coaches by videoconferencing from home or a library.

Nebraska residents can get about 26 weeks of unemployment benefits but must apply for jobs to remain eligible. Nebraska was paying out nearly $40 million a month in unemployment aid in 2009, but that’s fallen to about $4 million in recent months. The state unemployment rate was 2.6 percent in May, the lowest rate in the nation.

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