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Misinformation around Nevada's unemployment benefits coming from all angles

Posted at 7:32 PM, Mar 18, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Misinformation is coming from all angles for those currently out of work seeking help from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

A March 2 email to a claimant, for example, said "Unemployment insurance claim funds have all exhausted."

But that's not what DETR says.

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“It is inaccurate to say that the UI claims funds are exhausted,” DETR Director Elisa Cafferata told 13 Investigates.

And then there's the phone call where a DETR representative told another claimant that extended benefit money approved in December hasn't gone out yet.

“Right now, we're waiting on the Feds to tell us how to implement those additional 11 weeks,” a representative told David Hefferan in a phone call he recorded and provided to 13 Investigates.

“All right? So, until the Feds can tell us how to implement them," the rep continues, "we're not able to get people paid.”

People started getting paid weeks ago.

So we asked the agency, what can we say to people who are getting wrong information or can't get a straight answer?

“Um, uh, you know, I would say that I wish that the system were not so complicated,” Cafferata told us.

She says there have been so many changes to unemployment insurance programs that they're having trouble keeping staff caught up.

RELATED: 'Additional fine-tuning' needed, DETR working on system updates for PEUC benefits

“The most difficult part is not getting direct answers,” said Hefferan, who recorded the aforementioned phone call.

“Not knowing. Not knowing what next week holds," he said. "Bills coming up, makes me sick to my stomach every day not knowing when I'm going to get paid."

Hefferan is among thousands of claimants still waiting on the $300 weekly benefit extension approved by the federal government at the end of December. The 11-week timeframe has come and gone, but many have seen no money.

“I was having no issues the whole year up until Jan. 5 is when I received my last payment from DETR,” he told us.

The agency has rolled out some payments but is doing so in batches.

“I just wanted to get some answers, so I asked some simple questions,” Hefferan said. “He said he had no idea. His crystal ball broke.”

You read that right.

Hefferan on recording: “And you don't have a definitive timeline?”

DETR rep Chris: “I sure don't. My crystal ball broke yesterday.”

“I felt like it was very insensitive, for sure," said Hefferan.

"Because I get they're going through a lot of stress but at least he has a job," he said. "He's getting paid. He's paying his bills. He's not stressing out in the same way we are right now."

DETR Dir. Cafferata spoke about the questions her agency is facing.

“In the particular case of 'when can I expect my extended benefits that are rolling out in batches' the challenge is, and maybe we just need to train our callers to say this, there really is not any way for us to figure out when in the line-up of the batches you will fall," she said.

RELATED: Lessons of the last year inform DETR reform efforts

"Because we're going from oldest to newest claims, and it just depends on how many other things are going through the system, how many other updates we're doing, what else is happening," she said, "I can't even give people an estimate of when their batch will be processed because the system is just not designed to do that.”

Tough to hear for people living on borrowed time when it comes to making ends meet.

“I do my filing, I apply for jobs," Hefferan said. "I try to go to every interview that comes my way and it's not an easy market right now when there are thousands of people applying for every job at a time."

The DETR rep Hefferan spoke to didn't know anything about the payment batches.

Hefferan on call: “Is there gonna be any more batches going out soon?”

DETR rep Chris: “What do you mean by batches?”

We've reported on them, DETR has spoken about them, and people paid in the first batch have posted in Facebook support groups.

DETR rep Chris on call: “OK, so ... It's on Facebook. So that must make it true, right … From where I sit, I haven't been told anything about batches or people getting paid under the EUC, so I don't know.”

Dir. Cafferata says computer coding issues have complicated DETR's implementation of the latest round of programs and they're trying to do a better job keeping frontline staff informed.

“We are still paying out those claims in batches. Folks will get all the weeks they're eligible for but because our code that we are dealing with is old, it's taking a while to roll that out.

TIMELINE: Nevada Dept. of Employment and handling of pandemic unemployment claims

Hefferan has doubts.

“It makes you not trust them at all," he said. "You can't trust anything they say. You just gotta kind of hope.”

Hope is a rare commodity these days for those still waiting on DETR to deliver.

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