New Nebraska unemployment rules confusing some people

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska’s new rules for unemployment benefits are generally earning praise, but some people have been tripped up by one of the requirements.

Last fall, Nebraska increased the number of job contacts people must make each week to qualify for unemployment benefits to five from two. But the Omaha World-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1YVukYj ) that some applicants are missing a requirement that one of those contacts must be made through the state’s jobs site.

Maddy Hager said she was surprised to receive a warning letter from the Labor Department saying she hadn’t met the requirements even though she contacted five employers.

The unemployment rules require applicants to make at least one job contact through the NEworks.Nebraska.gov website. That requirement is explained in the middle of a 34-page handbook and in a letter applicants receive.

“I’m sure the requirement is there, but there’s so much to read,” said Hager, who received only one week of benefits before finding a new job about a month after she was laid off.

Labor Commissioner John Albin said everyone who files an unemployment claim has to promise to read the handbook so the requirement shouldn’t be a surprise. The rule is designed to provide job seekers with access to “the largest jobs database in the state,” Albin said.

The website is updated daily with job listings from employers and major job sites, including CareerLink.com and Indeed.com.

Vince Mancuso of Omaha also missed the new rule initially, but once he received the warning letter he started contacting prospective employers through the site.

“The Department of Labor was helpful when talking to a person, but their website just made the expectations a little unclear,” Mancuso said.

The five-companies-a-week requirement is one of the highest in the nation.

Some job counselors who help people apply for unemployment benefits say that rule can serve as a motivator.

“Increasing the number of contacts is vital and beneficial to your job search,” said Tina McGaugh, manager of Goodwill’s American Job Center in Omaha.

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