On Monday, January 25 2021, State Sen. Mike McDonnell urged the state legislature to include work authorized Nebraskan immigrants in state law to receive unemployment benefits.
In 2019 around 300 laid-off Nebraska workers missed out on unemployment benefits during the pandemic, including work authorized Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders.
Nebraska is the only state where work authorized DACA recipients cannot access their unemployment insurance. Certain individuals, including work authorized DACA-recipients and TPS-recipients, are currently blocked from accessing the unemployment insurance they earned, and their employers already paid.
In urging the Business and Labor Committee to advance LB 298 McDonnell said, “These are the employees of employers who have done everything correct. It’s not something that’s handed out to them; it’s something they earned.” Alexis Steel, Immigrant Legal Center Policy Attorney, testified in support of LB 298 at the public hearing saying “[LB 298] would correct an oversight.”
Legislature Bill 298 would change Nebraska code by adding language from federal law that establishes that states can provide unemployment insurance access to individuals like DACA-recipients, who do not fall under the category of “qualified alien,” by simply declaring their inclusion. Under LB 298, immigrants would have to prove they were authorized to work when they earned the unemployment benefits and when they collected them.
- In Nebraska, employers pay for unemployment insurance for each of their workers, regardless of immigration status.
- Current Nebraska law limits access to unemployment insurance to immigrants with lawful presence, which it evaluates based on whether an immigrant is a “qualified alien.”
- “Qualified alien” is a legal term, referring to list of certain categories of immigrant statuses with work authorization, but it does not include all categories of work authorized immigrants and it does not include all lawfully present.
- DACA-recipients, TPS-recipients, and asylum-seekers with work authorization do not fall under the category of “qualified alien” and slip through the cracks when we limit unemployment insurance to “qualified aliens” alone.
- Nebraska is the only state to deny unemployment insurance access to work authorized applicants.
- Nebraska is home to 2900 DACA recipients and 1500 TPS holders who pay more than $20 million in state taxes each year.