COVID-19 hits home: Legal Aid helps Grand Island woman receive unemployment benefits

The financial impact of COVID-19 is being felt worldwide, including right here in Nebraska. In Grand Island, one of the hardest hit areas in the state, many immunocompromised workers faced the heart-wrenching reality that they may contract the virus while working to put food on their family’s table.

Christina*, an employee of a Grand Island meat processing plant, found herself in that position as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to infect her co-workers. Christina had been sick and was told by a doctor to go home. A COVID-19 test came back negative, but Christina’s medical condition prevented her from returning to work for an extended period of time, which led her to struggle financially.

 The Federal CARES Act allows those affected by COVID-19 to apply for unemployment benefits to help offset the financial cost of the pandemic on hardworking Americans. Christina’s application for unemployment was denied, so she turned to Legal Aid of Nebraska for help.

“Unemployment rates have skyrocketed due to the COVID-19, and, like Cristina, many people facing health and economic hardships due to the ongoing public health emergency have come to Legal Aid for assistance,” said Grand Island Managing Attorney Emily Santa.

Christina’s stressful situation left her without a way to pay rent and other bills, and she was understandably upset. In June, her landlord told her she needed to pay all of the money she owed in rent by July 1.

Meanwhile, Legal Aid staff were working tirelessly to appeal the denial of unemployment benefits. Due to those efforts, one week before the deadline to pay her landlord, Christina was finally determined eligible for an unemployment benefits payment.  

“An unprecedented number of people in Grand Island and statewide will be facing legal issues like evictions, garnishments, and denial of unemployment benefits; therefore, we will see an increase in the demand of our services,” said Santa. “Supporting Legal Aid in Grand Island is especially important right now because Grand Island is one of the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19.”

Nebraskans who feel they have been wrongly denied unemployment benefits, or who have another COVID-19 legal issue, are encouraged to call Legal Aid’s COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-268-5627.

If you’d like to support Legal Aid’s COVID-19 efforts, you can make a donation for Go Big Give at: https://www.gobiggive.org/legalaidofnebraska or at our website: https://legalaidofnebraska.thankyou4caring.org/donate

*Name changed to protect identity.

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