DETR to upgrade phone system, but still can’t say when they’ll answer your call

for the record

Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation wants everyone to know they will get to your claims “in the order in which they were received.”

But they won’t say whether that means hours or days or weeks.

DETR head Heather Korbulic used the phrase multiple times in her answers to legislators’ questions during a meeting of the Interim Finance Committee on Monday. Korbulic and staff went before the committee to seek approval, which they unanimously received, to spend $1.8 million in funding for a new cloud-based phone system.

“It’s well publicized that DETR cannot handle the volume of calls,” said Korbulic. “The existing system is fragile, barely operational, with many components at end of life. … This crisis has put enormous demand and could potentially break at any given moment.”

But when asked by Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe Moreno what level of service Nevadans could expect once the phone system was rolled out, Korbulic demurred, noting only that the department “must have humans” to answer the calls and adjudicate claims and that they were working on it.

When asked by state Sen. Maggie Carlton how long it would hypothetically take the department to clear the backlog of the approximately 40,000 people seeking traditional unemployment benefits if they received no new claims, Korbulic said “that’s a moving target. We continue to staff up and are also automating solutions to try and release benefits for those who are pending.”

When asked by state Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer when people could see improvements, Korbulic noted DETR opened two call centers that day and is actively expanding its workforce.

“We’re hoping there will be an improvement every day,” she added.

Korbulic told lawmakers that the percentage of eligible claims for traditional unemployment benefits paid out is rising week over week. As of last week, that number sat at 84 percent — up from 81 percent the week prior.

Korbulic did not have data on the backlog for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a separate program designed to support self-employed individuals, 1099 contract workers, gig workers and others not typically eligible for traditional unemployment benefits.

“We continue to catch up on those claims and pay out in the order in which they were received,” Korbulic added.

Later, when asked by Settelmeyer what percentage of gig applicants have been paid out, Korbulic said the state didn’t know but was working with the vendor of the PUA system to calculate that number. More than 80,000 people have filed initial claims with PUA since the program launched on May 16.

Settelmeyer and other lawmakers mentioned they’ve been receiving many emails from constituents on unemployment issues. State Sen. Dina Neal said one woman emailed saying she’d been told she could expect payment in one to four weeks.

“If her claim doesn’t have anything holding it up, we will continue to process and pay them in the order in which they were received,” responded Korbulic. “We’re working all day, every day.”

Korbulic had the same answer for Chair Carlton, who said she’d been emailed by a casino worker who was expecting to return to work soon and wasn’t sure if that meant they couldn’t receive back pay for the weeks they were unemployed and waiting for adjudication by DETR. (The answer: Yes, you can still receive money for the weeks you were unemployed, even if you have already returned to work.)

“We continue to process claims,” said Korbulic, “in the order in which they were received.”

Nevada has distributed approximately $36 million in PUA claims, as of Friday. On Monday, frustrated PUA applicants took to social media to air their grievances, causing #NVnotpayingPUA to trend.

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.