Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. – A new state program that goes into effect this fall will give Nebraska businesses an alternative to layoffs when economic times are tight.

The short-time compensation program will extend partial unemployment benefits to groups of people who are still working, but whose hours have been trimmed by cost-saving employers, according to the Lincoln Journal Star ( ).

The program goes into effect on Oct. 1. It won’t replace workers’ lost wages dollar for dollar, but allows them to keep at least part of their regular paychecks and avoid having to search for another job, said Nebraska Labor Commissioner John Albin. Companies are required to maintain their employees’ retirement and health insurance benefits.

“We all hate to lose skilled, dedicated employees due to economic distortions,” said Mike Boyle, vice president and plant manager for Kawasaki Motors in Lincoln, which cut jobs during the recession.

The program is modeled after similar short-time compensation programs in at least 21 other states.

Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, who sponsored the legislation to bring short-time compensation to Nebraska, said such programs were credited with saving about 166,000 jobs nationwide in 2009 and nearly 100,000 jobs in 2010.

Recruiting and training skilled labor can represent a major investment for employers. Maintaining and boosting the state’s available workforce has been a particular focus of Nebraska’s business community in recent years.