State has paid nearly $200 million in unemployment during crisis, says it’s trying to do better

detr not deter
Nevada Employment Security Division Administrator Kimberly Gaa gave a presentation on unemployment benefits with Gov. Steve Sisolak Tuesday on Sisolak's YouTube page,
detr not deter
Nevada Employment Security Division Administrator Kimberly Gaa gave a presentation on unemployment benefits with Gov. Steve Sisolak Tuesday on Sisolak’s YouTube page,

One out of ten Nevadans have applied for unemployment in the last 30 days, and the system has paid almost $200 million over that period, Gov. Steve Sisolak said during a presentation on unemployment Tuesday.

But Sisolak said the state’s overwhelmed unemployment insurance system also means there are Nevadans “who can’t get through the phones even after calling all day long” and who are frustrated with a slow and clunky website that the governor said was never intended to handle the volume it has to handle now.

“I hear you,” Sisolak said.

He and Kimberly Gaa, administrator for the state Employment Security Division of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabiliation (DETR), outlined steps being taken to attempt to make the system run more efficiently, including roughly tripling staff and hiring a call center vendor. The call center’s numbers should be available later this week.

Gaa said the state is still not set up to provide benefits to gig workers, the self-employed and others not traditionally covered by the state unemployment system  — but who are covered by the federal CARES Act.

“We’re hoping to get that module set up very soon,” Gaa said. “We’re looking maybe mid-May, early May.”

DETR has asked that such workers not file for the time being.

Sisolak emphasized that claims will be backdated to a person’s earliest date of eligibility, as far back as March 15.

In an effort to ease the strain on the system, DETR is also asking people to file initial or weekly claims on different days of the week, based on the first letter of their last names:

  • A-K: Sunday
  • L-R: Monday
  • S-Z: Tuesday
  • All: Wednesday, Saturday

Sisolak and Gaa also described a “life cycle” of a claim, from initial filing to determination of eligibility to getting money on the debit card. No, when you get the debit card, it doesn’t already have money on it, Sisolak noted.

The full presentation on unemployment benefits can viewed on Sisolak’s YouTube page.

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.