DETR to start accepting gig worker unemployment applications Saturday

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Gig workers, independent contractors, the self-employed and other workers who file federal taxes with IRS 1099 forms instead of W-2s will be able to begin applying for unemployment benefits Saturday, the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation announced Thursday.

“We know there is a high demand and expect our call center and claims portal to be very busy the first few days,” said DETR Director Heather Korbulic.

The department said it expects to make the first payments starting May 23.

The federal CARES Act in March established a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program to extend unemployment benefits to gig and other workers who traditionally have not been eligible for state unemployment benefits.

PUA benefits will be retroactive to Feb. 2.

There is no good hard count of how many gig and “1099” workers are in Nevada or any other state.

“DETR anticipates tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of applications being submitted; likely all at once,” the department cautions on a PUA web page that was also unveiled Thursday.

That web page also lists eligibility criteria, documents applicants will need to file, and other information, along with the link to where people can, starting Saturday, file a claim. For weeks DETR has been telling gig workers not to file an application, because the regular unemployment system couldn’t process them and would just kick out their application.

Already besieged by hundreds of thousands of people filing for unemployment under the state’s regular system, DETR has had to also and at the same time effectively create a new system to process claims filed by those who will be eligible under PUA.

DETR hired Geographic Solutions to implement the new system. The firm has already implemented PUA systems in several other states, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia, according to DETR.

Nevada has lagged the rest of the country in implementing PUA, and while several states are still in early stages and have yet to start paying benefits, Nevada and as of early this week was the only state in the nation that hadn’t begun to at least accept PUA claims, according to researchers tracking PUA progress nationally.

The PUA claim system will also have a “dedicated call center” for PUA applicants, at 1-800-603-9681.

Under the CARES Act PUA provisions, gig and 1099 workers are eligible for the federal $600 a week benefit that regular unemployment claimants are eligible for, as well as benefits from the state unemployment system.

State benefits max out at $469 a week.

One of the complications that has made it difficult for states to begin accepting and processing PUA claims is that states need to base those state benefits on 1099s instead of income reported in a W-2.

When filing, “Documents which show your total income for the entire year such as tax documents are preferable, as these will allow a quicker review of your total earnings,” the DETR web page says.

“The Division and our dedicated staff have been working day and night to stand up this system and we look forward to the relief it will bring to tens of thousands of Nevadans,” Korbulic said.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.