As public officials work hard to contain the spread of the coronavirus, many people have temporarily lost their jobs as public places close.

But while people are being laid off, some businesses are still hiring to help keep the flow of commerce going during this time of social distancing.

“Our Grand Island office is currently open and we have seen an increase in traffic with people filing unemployment claims,” said Grace Johnson, public information officer for the Nebraska Department of Labor. “There is no requirement to visit a job center to apply for unemployment insurance benefits or short-time compensation.”

Some businesses, such as Walmart, are hiring temporary workers. For anyone who has been laid off from their job and needs something temporarily, Walmart South is hiring. If interested, ask for personnel at (308) 381-4970.

Johnson said the Grand Island NDOL office is adhering to social distancing guidelines to protect the health of customers.

As far as Grand Island businesses that are hiring, she said people can see recent job postings at NEworks.nebraska.gov under Job Seekers, where people can click Find a Job and select Hall County as the area.

State Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin is encouraging workers and businesses to use resources available through the NDOL as they respond to the coronavirus.

“We understand this is a time of uncertainty for all Nebraskans, and we are here to support workers and employers as they navigate this challenging situation,” Albin said.

Workers in a non-paid status due to COVID-19 may file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. Unemployment claims in Nebraska are filed online at NEworks.nebraska.gov. The NEworks mobile app is available to download for free.

Last week Gov. Pete Ricketts announced that from March 22 through May 2, NDOL would be waiving the requirement to search for work, as well as the requirement to serve an unpaid waiting week once eligibility is determined. Employers whose workers file claims tied to COVID-19 will also not be charged for those benefits. Nebraska’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund will instead be used.

Albin said if an employer is laying off a large number of workers, they may file a claim in NEworks on behalf of these workers. Instructions are found on the NDOL website at: https://dol.nebraska.gov/UIBenefits/.

In addition to regular unemployment insurance benefits, employers also have the option of using Short-Time Compensation (STC). That program helps prevent layoffs by allowing employers to uniformly reduce affected employees’ hours by 10% to 60% while permitting the employees to receive a prorated unemployment benefit. During the STC, the employer agrees to continue providing benefits to the employees. For more information, see the information on this page: https://dol.nebraska.gov/stc/.

Due to high call volume, unemployment insurance questions should be emailed to ndol.nichelp@nebraska.gov and should include contact information. Live chat assistance is available on NEworks.nebraska.gov.

Questions specific to short-time compensation should be sent to NDOL.STCLegal@nebraska.gov/.

According to Ricketts’ office:

— If individuals do not have access to sick leave or vacation during a time of isolation, they may file for unemployment insurance benefits.

— Eligibility is on a case-by-case basis and individuals may or may not be eligible.

SBA assistance

For businesses that have had to shut down because of the social distancing requirements being ordered by the government, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering help.

SBA is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Nebraska small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the coronavirus. SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza announced that SBA acted under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by President Trump, to declare a disaster following a request received from Ricketts on March 17.

The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in the entire state of Nebraska.

“SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist Nebraska small businesses with federal disaster loans. We will be swift in our efforts to help these small businesses recover from the financial impacts of the coronavirus,” said Carranza.

SBA customer service representatives will be available to answer questions about SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and explain the application process.

“Small businesses, private nonprofit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the coronavirus since Jan. 31, may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred,” said Carranza.

These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.

“Disaster loans can provide vital economic assistance to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing,” Carranza said.

Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the coronavirus. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The interest rate for private nonprofit organizations is 2.75%. SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years and they are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 21.

Social distancing

One of the reasons for many businesses closing because of the virus is the need to help stop its spread.

“Social distancing doesn’t prevent all disease but it can prevent a spike in cases so severe that hospitals become overwhelmed,” according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

To slow the spread of disease in Nebraska communities, the following measures are recommended:

— Practice social distancing, which means put at least 6 feet of space between you and others.

— Social and public gatherings are limited to 10 people.

— Bars and restaurants are limited to 10 people and are strongly encouraged to move to drive-through, take-out or delivery only.

— Child care providers should also follow the 10-person guidance with the goal of reducing class sizes and increasing space between children.

— Grocery stores will continue operations but should prioritize ordering, pickup and delivery.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services will continue to update Nebraskans through http://dhhs.ne.gov/coronavirus and on Facebook and Twitter as we have new information. The CDC’s website is also a good resource for COVID-19 information — https://www.cdc.gov/covid19/.

Personal measures

— Stay home if you are sick and avoid contact with sick people.

— Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer.

— Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

— Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash.

— Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Higher risk groups

Certain people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. including older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. People in these higher-risk groups should:

— Stock up on supplies, including extra necessary medications.

— Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.

— When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.

— Avoid crowds as much as possible.

— If there is a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.

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