Moments ago, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) signed SB 3 into law to help expedite unemployment insurance (UI) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims. In addition, he announced a new interim director to take charge of the state department that’s been plagued with a record amount of claims and insufficient infrastructure to handle them, along with a new “strike force” to resolve the systemic problems in Nevada’s unemployment system.
So what’s happening with the unemployment system?
As we discussed earlier today, the Nevada Legislature passed SB 3 to help expedite unemployment insurance (UI) claims and help qualifying Nevadans secure an additional seven weeks of federal UI income. Yet as we also discussed earlier today, Congress and the Trump administration remain in a stalemate over the $600 weekly UI and PUA income boost.
Regarding the problems within the unemployment system, Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) offered her support to Sisolak and the state officials during a press call earlier today, though she also acknowledged, “The chickens are coming home to roost. For years, we have operated on a shoestring buffet. It just hasn’t been enough. They’ve been putting it together on chicken wire and chewing gum for too long.”
Amidst these recent developments, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) called his own press conference today to update Nevadans on what’s happening with our UI system here.
“I want you to know: I hear you. I’m listening. I’m taking action.”
– Governor Steve Sisolak
During his event, Sisolak thanked the Legislature for passing SB 3, and he subsequently signed the bill into law. He then said to those Nevadans whose claims have become part of the backlog, “I want you to know: I hear you. I’m listening. I’m taking action.” He then added, “Just one family who’s struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table is one family too many.”
From there, Sisolak stated, “Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, yet we are paying 90% of traditional unemployment claims. 90%. The state has also paid over 120,000 PUA claims.” And he added that the Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation (DETR) thus far has paid $6 billion in UI and PUA benefits.
Still, Sisolak acknowledged the severity of this crisis, and he introduced two people he promised will help fix this crisis: Former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley (D-Las Vegas) and Nevada Division of Welfare and Support Services Deputy Administrator Elisa Cafferata. Caferrata is now DETR’s new interim director, and Buckley is leading the state’s new “strike force” to implement SB 3, further expedite approval of valid UI and PUA claims, and transition DETR’s infrastructure into the 21st century.
“All solutions are on the table. […] All resources of the state government will be here to help.”
– Barbara Buckley, the new leader of Sisolak’s unemployment system “strike force”
#LIVE: Gov. Sisolak holds 3 p.m. press conference to update Nevada’s current unemployment situation amid the pandemic. bit.ly/30Bt1sy
Posted by KTNV Channel 13 Action News on Thursday, August 6, 2020
According to Sisolak, “We know the state is dealing with an antiquated computer system, an unprecedented amount of demand, and fraudulent claims that are slowing down the system.” While other investigations and news reports have cast doubt on the amount of identity theft and unemployment fraud cases that DETR officials have claimed, KLAS/8 News Now, KTNV, and The Nevada Independent have recently documented incidents that provide some corroboration to Sisolak’s and DETR’s claims.
Buckley said she’s already working closely with Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford (D) and U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Nick Trutanich on identifying and prosecuting such cases of fraud in order to prevent UI and PUA funds from going into the wrong hands, and in order to get money to valid applicants more quickly.
And when it comes to other problems to solve, such as DETR’s “antiquated computer system” and long-time understaffing, Buckley stressed, “All solutions are on the table. […] All resources of the state government will be here to help.” So far, Buckley will be leading the “strike force” for the next 60-90 days and receive support through federal CARES Act funding.
“Our commitment is to get through these cases, get the resolution that people need, and get payments out to those who need them.”
– Elisa Cafferata, DETR Interim Director
As expected, Nevada’s unemployment system’s total breakdown has led to unprecedented rage across the state. In just four months, the two previous DETR directors left, with former interim director Heather Korbulic leaving after receiving an alarming amount of threatening messages.
So is DETR’s newest interim director prepared to take over? While she admitted she’s been concerned about what she’s stepping into, Cafferata also made clear that she’s ready to take on this historic task. According to Cafferata, “Our commitment is to get through these cases, get the resolution that people need, and get payments out to those who need them.”
And when it comes to Nevadans’ ongoing anger, frustration, and rage over the unemployment backlog, Cafferata requested, “Give us the benefit of the doubt and let [the DETR staff] get on with their work.”