Sisolak replaces director in charge of state’s besieged unemployment office

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nopeThe director of the state department in charge of Nevada’s beleaguered unemployment system no longer has the job.

A statement from the governor’s office Tuesday gave no explanation for the departure of Dr. Tiffany Tyler-Garner, who was appointed to head the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) by Gov. Steve Sisolak in January 2019. The governor’s office did not respond to requests for additional information Tuesday morning.

The statement from Sisolak’s office said Heather Korbulic has been appointed interim director of DETR. Korbulic has been executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange since 2016.

Like state unemployment systems nationwide, DETR has faced an onslaught of criticism and complaints as it has been overwhelmed by unemployment claims during the coronavirus crisis and the accompanying shutdown. Through April 18 the Nevada department had received 370,000 claims — perhaps as much as 20 percent of the state’s pre-crisis workforce — the vast majority of them filed in the last several weeks.

During a YouTube briefing April 14, Sisolak acknowledged that thousands of Nevadans were spending countless hours on repeated phone calls to DETR in an effort to get their claims processed and receive unemployment benefits, and frequently with no success.

“I hear you,” Sisolak said at the time.

In 2019, when Tyler-Garner was director of DETR, the department asked state lawmakers  for additional funding to upgrade its unemployment claims system, but legislators did not act. Sisolak referred to that request, and its legislative denial, April 14. He later tweeted that it wasn’t the Legislature’s fault.

Sisolak and DETR adminstrator Kimberly Gaa, who joined him for the April 14 video briefing, noted the department had nearly tripled staff in an attempt to handle the surge in claims. The department as of that date had paid out nearly $200 million in claims over a 30-day period. they added.

It was also at that briefing that Sisolak and Gaa touted the selection of a new call center vendor to help handle calls. People who have attempted to get information from the call center operated by a company called Alorica subsequently told the Review-Journal the center offers only “general information” and is wholly unable to help people with their claims.

DETR has also struggled to revise unemployment system rules and regulations to allow gig workers, independent contractors, and the self-employed to file claims. Those workers have traditionally been ineligible for unemployment benefits.

The federal CARES Act extends unemployment payments to many of those workers, and states nationwide have been slow to adjust their systems accordingly. However, as of Monday, at least 17 states had begun processing claims from gig and other workers. DETR does not expect to begin doing so until mid-May, and in the meantime is urging those workers not to apply because they will just be kicked out of the computer system until DETR get set up to accept their claims.

“I am confident that (Korbulic’s) dynamic leadership will help strengthen our workforce-driven employment agency and increase the State’s ability to assist Nevadans during this unprecedented time,“ Sisolak said in the statement issued Tuesday.

“I want to thank Dr. Tyler-Garner for her service and dedication to the residents of Nevada during her time at DETR,” Sisolak 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.