Nebraska’s governor recently signed legislation that makes minor changes to the state’s unemployment insurance laws. The new laws won’t affect most workers in Nebraska. Rather, the new laws bring the policies of the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Division in line with policies in other states. Still, you will benefit from a full understanding of the existing policies and procedures when applying for benefits.
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in Nebraska
To qualify for benefits, you must have earned wages from an employer covered by the state’s unemployment insurance laws. You must have earned at least $4,145.74 over a 12-month period when applying for benefits in 2017. If you meet this qualification, you must also:
- Be unemployed through no fault of your own
- Be legally authorized to work in the US
- Be able and available to work
You must register with the state’s employment service, NEworks.
You may also apply for benefits if your employer reduced your wages. You must be otherwise eligible to claim benefits.
Eligibility Requirements Explained
Able and Available
You must be physically and mentally able to work when you file a claim. You must also be available to accept an offer of suitable employment. “Suitable employment” is a job offer for work that you’re trained to do or capable of doing, and the pay should be similar to that which you’ve received in the past. The longer you go without work, the less important it becomes that the job you accept be “suitable.”
Lost Work Through No Fault of Your Own
You cannot be the cause of your separation from employment and be eligible for benefits. If you quit without good cause or were fired for some rule violation, you will not be eligible.
You must be able to prove US citizenship or that you are legal to work in the US. You may show an alien registration card if you are not a US citizen.
Qualifying Wages and the Base Period
To qualify for benefits, you must have earned at least $4,175.74 over a 12-month period called the base period. The base period is the first four of the last five quarters prior to your filing a claim.
Additionally, you must have earned at least $800 in one quarter and $1,850 in another. Essentially, the state is looking for sustained periods of employment from covered employers over the base period.
Your employer should be able to inform you whether unemployment law covers them, because they will have paid the unemployment insurance tax.
Calculating Your Benefit Payment
The Division uses your base period wages to determine how much you’ll receive each week, your weekly benefit amount (WBA). The claims examiner will find your “high quarter wages” (the quarter in which you earned the most). Then, the examiner will divide that amount by 13 to find your “average weekly wage.” The examiner will divide that figure by two to find your WBA.
The state legislature sets a maximum benefit amount. That figure is adjusted each year. The maximum for 2017 is $408.
When you file your initial claim online, you will find out an estimate of your WBA when you’ve finished.
You may receive as much as 26 weeks of benefit payments. The maximum amount of benefit payments you may receive over a year will be 26 times your WBA, or 1/3 of your total base period wages, whichever is less. Other factors may affect your total payments, like tax deductions or whether you work part-time during the time you receive benefits.
During times of high unemployment, the state or federal government may authorize additional weeks of benefit payments. No such extensions are currently available.
How to Apply for Benefits
You may file your claim online at NEworks, the job search and unemployment information portal. If you do not have Internet access available, you may use the NEworks physical location and use the onsite computers.
You will need to provide some information when you file, including:
- Social Security Number
- complete contact information including a telephone number and email address
- county you live in
- driver’s license number or State ID card number
- the company names for all your employers from the past 18 months
- The employer’s physical address
- Start and end date for each employer listed
- The reason for leaving work
If you want to use direct deposit to receive benefit payments, you’ll need your bank routing number and account number.
If you need assistance or your claim involves military, federal, or out-of-state wages, call the Nebraska Claims Center at 402-458-2500 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. You will also need to provide the appropriate separation paperwork for military or federal employment.
Filing a Weekly Claim
The state requires that you maintain your eligibility status while you are receiving benefits. In addition, the state wants to ensure you are looking for work at the same time. To that end, you will have to file a claim each week to get a benefit payment. If you fail to file a claim, you will not receive a check. It is in your best interest to file a claim each week after you file your initial claim.
You can file your weekly claim online using the NEworks system. When you file, you’ll be asked several questions meant to test your continuing eligibility for benefits. These questions include:
- Whether you have looked for work in the past week
- Whether you have start or quit a new job
- Whether you refused an offer of suitable employment
- Whether you have earned any wages during the benefit week
- Whether you are able and available for suitable employment
Whether or not you receive benefits that week will depend on the answer to these and other questions. Answer truthfully. If the state finds out, for example, that you refused a job offer yet failed to report it, you could lose benefits.
You must report any wages earned during the week you performed the work, not when you were paid.
Part-time Work and Partial Benefits
You may file a claim if your employer reduces your wages from full to part-time if otherwise eligible. You may also work part-time while receiving benefits. However, if your part-time work earns you more than your WBA, you won’t be eligible for benefits that week (you will not be considered unemployed).
Moreover, you will only receive partial benefits. The state will deduct funds from your WBA that week based on how much you earned. You can earn up to 25% of your WBA without deduction. Anything over that, the state will deduct a dollar-for-dollar amount.
Work Search Requirement
You will have to provide evidence that you are looking for work. You’ll self-report your efforts to find work when you file a weekly claim.
You must make and log five contacts per week. One of those contacts should come through NEworks. At least one of these contacts must include submitting a job application. If you receive benefits for six weeks or more, you must submit at least two applications.
You may be exempt from the work search requirement if you have a specific return date (to the same employer), are waiting on a new job to start, in a union hall or are in state-approved training program.
Reasons for Denial of Benefits
If you fail to meet the monetary qualifications (not enough base period wages), the Division’s claims examiner will deny your claim for benefits. Even if you do have qualifying wages, the state may deny benefits for other reasons, most likely related to your separation from work. If the state ultimately approves your claim, certain actions or failures to act can cause the state to deny any continuing claim.
If your actions or decisions cause your separation from work, the claims examiner may deny your claim. If you quit your job, the examiner may deny the claim. If you were fired for cause, the state is likely to disqualify you.
The state can deny benefit claims for people who quit without good cause connected to the job. Things that may seem to be a “good cause,” like going back to school full-time or not being able to find transportation, are grounds for a denial of benefits. Those are personal reasons for quitting.
Conversely, if the employer did something or failed to do something to cause you to quit, you may be eligible for benefits. For example, if your employer forced you to work in unsafe conditions, you may quit and be eligible. However, you will have to show that you made a good faith effort to work things out with your employer AND that those conditions actually existed.
If you get fired for violating a rule or a policy, you are not likely to be eligible for benefits. The standard is whether you were fired for misconduct. “Misconduct” is any behavior that shows a lack of regard for the employer’s interests. Being habitually late is a prime example of misconduct.
Some reasons for your dismissal may not rise to the level of misconduct. A one-time minor policy violation, a mistake in judgement or an inability to perform the work in spite of your best efforts are examples of circumstances that may not be misconduct.
The examiner will receive information from the employer regarding your separation. They may find the employer’s evidence more convincing. In these cases, you may have to file an appeal.
What Happens When the State Denies Benefits
You will receive a notice if the state denies your claim for benefits. The notice will inform you of the reasons for the denial. You have the right to appeal the examiner’s determination that denied your claim. Appeals are time sensitive. You will have a limited amount of time in which to file your appeal, so act quickly.
While the notice will provide information regarding the appeals process, you can learn more about filing an appeal on our pages regarding appeals in the state of Nebraska.
The FAQ for workers in need of unemployment benefits
The main page for the Division of Unemployment Insurance: scroll down to find a link to the handbook for claimants.
Nebraska Claims Center
Email: [email protected]
Nebraska Claims Center
Email: [email protected]
Nebraska Department of Labor Office of Unemployment Insurance
P.O. Box 94600
Lincoln, NE 68509-4600