Nebraska Jobless Claims Soar with Rise in Virus Numbers

Nebraska’s initial claims for unemployment benefits skyrocketed with the nation’s last week amid the coronavirus pandemic, rising to nearly 16,000 from a little less than 800 the week before, according to a federal report released Thursday. Nationally, 3.3 million people filed unemployment claims in the week ending March 21, compared with 282,000 the week before.

“Nearly every state providing comments cited the COVID-19 virus impacts,” the U.S. Labor Department report said. “States continued to cite services industries broadly, particularly accommodation and food services.” The dire financial news came as two more COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Nebraska, bringing the state total to 68, state officials said.

The announcement Wednesday night follows the Legislature’s approval of an $83.6 million emergency relief package. Governor Pete Ricketts signed the bill that will provide money for additional medical and cleaning supplies, tests and overtime for state health care workers. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

The governor also added Lancaster, Dodge and Saunders counties to the list of places where restaurants and bars will have to close their dining rooms because of the health risk. Similar restrictions were already in place for Douglas, Sarpy, Cass and Washington counties. Combined, all of those counties account for more than 1.1 million people and well over half of the state’s population.