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Nebraska senators advance bill qualifying family caregivers for unemployment benefits

Nebraska senators advance bill qualifying family caregivers for unemployment benefits

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Nebraskans forced to quit a job to care for a seriously ill family member could get unemployment benefits under a bill advanced by state lawmakers Tuesday.

LB260, introduced by Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, would add family caregiving to the list of “good cause” reasons for leaving a job. The bill cleared first-round consideration on a 27-11 vote. 

Megan Hunt

Sen. Megan Hunt

The measure would make caregivers eligible for unemployment benefits while looking for a new job that fits with their family duties. The bill would apply to workers caring for spouses, parents, children, grandchildren, siblings or in-laws with serious health conditions. 

"This is a situation that any of us could face one day," Hunt said, describing the bill as a "safety net" for people not covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Under LB260, employers would not be charged for benefits paid to employees who quit because of caregiving demands. Workers could get benefits only if they had made reasonable efforts to work out conflicts between their jobs and their caregiving before quitting.  

Those provisions helped Hunt to get 24 co-sponsors for the bill and satisfy potential opposition. 

Crawford's bill failed on final reading after opponents raised concerns about the inclusion of domestic partners.  

Although the changes to LB260 addressed outside opposition, some lawmakers raised concerns.

"We don't want to put an extra burden on them," he said, arguing that workers should negotiate with their employers about accommodating their caregiving duties. 

But Hunt said the state's unemployment trust fund holds more than $500 million now. The Department of Labor estimated the cost of unemployment benefits for caregivers at about $750,000 a year.

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