Unemployment benefit increase proposed for parents

The Business and Labor Committee heard testimony Feb. 8 on a bill to provide additional unemployment benefits for Nebraskans with dependent children.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist26' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Matt Hansen'>Sen. Matt Hansen</a>
Sen. Matt Hansen

LB171, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, would increase an individual’s weekly unemployment benefit by 5 percent per dependent child, up to 15 percent if he or she has three or more dependents.

Hansen said that the coronavirus pandemic has made clear that unemployment insurance is a lifeline for struggling families across the state.

“Nebraskans want to work, so when they are in the unfortunate position of applying for unemployment benefits, let’s do a better job of matching what families need with what we can provide them for the short time they do receive those benefits,” he said.

The increased benefit proposed in LB171 would not count toward an individual’s maximum annual benefit amount.

Alex Serrurier, representing OpenSky Policy Institute, testified in support of the bill. A strong unemployment insurance program is critical to support Nebraska workers, he said, and ensure that individuals searching for employment aren’t forced to leave the state to find jobs elsewhere.

“LB171 would modernize our unemployment system by recognizing that those with dependents require resources to support more than just themselves,” Serrurier said.

Opposing the bill was Commissioner of Labor John Albin. Nebraska’s unemployment trust fund remained relatively stable during the pandemic, he said, because the governor authorized the use of federal funds to pay unemployment benefits related to the pandemic.

“Because the dependent allowance is not due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these additional benefits would not be eligible for CARES Act dollars,” Albin said. “Furthermore, there is no guarantee that federal legislative changes would include additional CARES Act dollars.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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