State tries to recast narrative on timing of accepting PUA applications

for the record

for the recordOn Tuesday, the Nevada Current reported that “Nevada is now the only state not accepting unemployment claims from gig workers.” On Thursday, state officials pushed back on that narrative — first by requesting a correction from us, then by suggesting during a press conference that Nevada isn’t lagging behind other states.

But here’s the problem: They haven’t provided anything that shows we’re wrong.

In their email to us requesting a correction, the Department of Education, Training and Rehabilitation, citing the Department of Labor, wrote that “six states are beginning to accept Pandemic Unemployment Assistance this week, and one does not plan to accept claims until May 27.”

“Nevada is in line with other states in launching this new program,” added Gov. Steve Sisolak on social media Thursday.

When asked by the Current to forward the information from the Department of Labor for verification, a spokesperson for DETR said “the information regarding the other states was provided by (the Department of Labor), upon request.”

They did not identify which states were being referred to.

Through our own reporting, the Current had already identified four states that launched their PUA application systems or process this week. Arizona, Kansas and Illinois began accepting applications on either Monday or Tuesday. Delaware began sending letters to PUA-eligible applicants on Monday. Ohio began accepting claims on Tuesday, but gig workers had already had the option of pre-registering before this week.

In the most recent update to his PUA implementation tracker, which our original story used as a source, University of Chicago Assistant Professor Dmitri Koustas also identified Idaho and Hawaii as states that had recently launched. The former state on Monday announced it had begun paying claims out. The latter state announced a system in late April.

We could not identify any state projecting a May 27 launch. However, we did find that the Virgin Islands (not a state, but a territory) is projecting an “early June” launch for their PUA program.

In its email, DETR also directed the Current to the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims report released Thursday. In it, a page on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Claims shows 24 states and territories reporting $0 in initial and continued claims for the week ending May 9.

DETR representatives would refer to that stat during their press conference Thursday afternoon. The subtext being: We are not that far behind! We are right on track with other states! At least one news outlet would go on to report that “dozens of states” haven’t paid out claims yet.

What DETR didn’t publicly acknowledge, though they did in their email to the Current, is that there can be a delay in reporting to the Department of Labor. We looked up every state reporting $0 in initial claims in the data provided by DETR. We found several that have reported they have distributed millions of dollars in PUA payments, but again, we found no reports of any states that, as of Tuesday when we published, had not begun accepting applications.

Accepting applications is the first step in paying them out.

To be fair, states not named Nevada have had issues with PUA. Backlogs exist in many states, as would be expected with unemployment being what it is across the county. Some states have accepted applications but been delayed in paying them. Nevada, if it holds to its projected timeline of paying people by May 23, could very well begin providing tangible financial relief before other states.

That said, the Current and the general public did not know that on Tuesday. And by all available information, including that provided by DETR, as of Tuesday, Nevada was the only state where gig workers could not file for unemployment.

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.