The first-term Democrat said the state simply wasn’t built to handle huge spike in COVID-related unemployment claims
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Nevada will backdate a flood of new unemployment claims stemming from the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, extending retroactive payments to all residents who have lost their jobs since March 15.
Gov. Steve Sisolak announced the move in a Tuesday press conference with reporters in Carson City, where he said more than 300,000 residents had filed an unemployment claim over the past month — or roughly one claim for every 10 Nevadans.
The state was never set up to handle such a massive spike in unemployment, Sisolak said, and holding up existing claims to fix that system would do more harm than good.
“We saw there was a need for expanding and updating the system and it did not get through the Legislature,” he added, referring to past calls to bolster the state’s relatively small Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. “I’m not casting blame, I just want to point out that DETR data has pointed this out and it wasn’t upgraded.”
Sisolak later said he was sure state lawmakers would revisit the agency’s funding during the 2021 session. He also encouraged Nevadans to continue filing claims, which he said would be addressed as soon as possible.
Out-of-work Nevadans are still on track to receive an additional $600 in federal unemployment funds, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, though processing those payments has only added to the strain placed on workers at the state’s unemployment office.
Sisolak last week hired 100 new call center workers to help ease the backlog. The agency has also tripled its staffing, bringing its total number of employees to about 200.
Nevada began the pandemic with $1.95 billion available for unemployment benefits, and has so far paid out about $200 million in claims.
The Silver State posted the seventh-highest insured unemployment rates in the nation last week at 4.3%, according to the Department of Labor. It also saw 79,285 new unemployment insurance claims for the week ending on April 4, the second-highest weekly total on record. Existing claims totaled 271,533 for the same period, which is more than the last two years combined.
Officials recommend filing for claims outside of the 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. window, which is when activity peaks and the system is at its slowest.
New filers are also strongly encouraged to brush up on tutorials meant to guide applicants through the claims process.
James DeHaven is the politics reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. He covers campaigns, the Nevada Legislature and everything in between. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.
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