Amid the spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout the nation, unemployment insurance claims surged to unprecedented levels in all states, including Nebraska. In April 2020, the state saw an astounding 26,228 new claims and 106,758 continued claims, setting records. Comparatively, the corresponding weeks in 2019 only saw 584 initial claims and 3,106 continued claims, resulting in year-over-year increases of 4,391% and 3,337%, respectively. The sudden surge overwhelmed Nebraska’s unemployment division, which struggled to cope with the massive influx of claims and lacked the resources to quickly hire, train, and equip new staff to meet the demand.
To address this crisis, Nebraska’s Department of Labor (DOL) made the decision to outsource and enlisted Nelnet to provide 100 contact center associates. Remarkably, Nelnet managed to fully staff their team within three days of being awarded the contract and implemented a telephony system in just seven days to cater to Nebraska’s requirements. As the situation persisted, and the demand continued, the contract was extended, leading Nelnet to promptly increase their staff to 200 associates within a week.
Over the course of 18 months, Nelnet’s associates diligently handled nearly 500,000 unemployment insurance-related matters. Their responsibilities encompassed reaching out to claimants and their former employers, investigating flagged cases as directed by DOL adjudicators, and making recommendations before forwarding the claims to DOL for further assessment and award determination. As the workload intensified, DOL increasingly relied on Nelnet, eventually entrusting them with the entire claims process up to the point of determination within a mere four months. As the backlog of claims gradually cleared, DOL enlisted Nelnet’s aid in investigating fraudulent claims to recover substantial amounts of overpaid state and federal benefits, totaling tens of millions of dollars, which had been erroneously disbursed to Nebraskans.