State hires a call center to help handle unemployment claims

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Businesses boarded up. (Photo: Bridget Bennet)
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Businesses boarded up. (Photo: Bridget Bennet)

As of Friday morning, there weren’t any phone numbers for it yet.

But overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of unemployment claim applications, the state has turned to a call center to help process the claims.

The Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) has contracted with a vendor to provide 100 full-time operators, according to a release from the governor’s office issued late Friday afternoon.

The outsourcing help comes after DETR already boosted staff from 75 to 200, the release said.

Unemployment insurance systems the nation over have been overwhelmed, and Nevada is no different, having nowhere near the capacity to effectively and quickly process the roughly quarter-million claims filed by Nevadans in recent weeks. People have been encouraged to file online since early on in the crisis, but countless applicants have run into issues that are not readily resolved through the online portal, and attempting to contact DETR via phone has been a grueling affair.

“The primary focus will be to alleviate call volumes at the UI claim centers with the flexibility to provide future support for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provision for independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers and other workers not covered by standard Unemployment Insurance,” the release from the governor’s office said.

The $2.2 trillion CARES act relief bill signed into law March 27 extends unemployment insurance to self-employed workers, independent contractors, freelancers and so-called “gig” workers.

But the federal government and states have yet to figure out how to make that provision of the legislation work.

The release said phone numbers for the call center “will be announced when they become available.” The vendor is not named in the release, but just described as “an international company” that operates two call centers in Nevada now. The vendor will use staff in call centers and employees working remotely from home.

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.