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Scope of Nevada’s jobless claims backlog still unclear

Updated September 15, 2020 - 11:39 am

One month into tackling the backlog of jobless claims, and the scope of the logjam is only beginning to emerge for Nevada’s unemployment task force.

Barbara Buckley, head of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s rapid response team on unemployment, said the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation has managed to clear about 14,000 unemployment insurance cases over the past month but continues to work through its claims backlog.

Buckley estimated there are an additional 60,000 outstanding cases for traditional unemployment insurance and 6,000 to 20,000 outstanding claims for those under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

She said it’s difficult to provide an exact figure showing the scale of DETR’s backlog since the recent quarter change has left some filers with both traditional and PUA claims.

The office has seen a whirlwind of problems and high-profile departures in recent months as thousands of jobless Nevadans report massive payment delays with their unemployment benefits and problems contacting a department representative for help.

“The (unemployment) system was designed as two systems, and that’s one of the things that we’ve been working on is having all the claims looked at by the person and not by the system,” Buckley said.

Staffing needs

To have claims looked at by a person requires more people, and beefing up the staffing has been a key focus, said Elisa Cafferata, who took on the role of acting director last month.

She told the Review-Journal on Monday that the department now has 839 employees, and that number is expected to continue to grow by more than 350. She did not comment on how many employees DETR had when she started her role.

“We’re just trying to keep doing a reality check every month to make sure we’re focusing on the right staffing based on the existing programs that we have,” she said.

Sisolak announced two weeks ago that DETR began training 200 part-time employees from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services’ division of welfare and supportive services who were willing to work overtime for DETR.

Cafferata said the team of 200 state employees is expected to start in less than two weeks.

“We’re working on training them in both UI and the PUA system so they’ll be able to help folks who might be eligible in both places,” she said.

This month, Cafferata also suggested a plan to tap into the state’s pool of retired employees and said she expects to add at least 50 individuals “who can work during the day … who would also be able to work in both systems.”

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.

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