LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — On Dec. 27, 2020, the federal government approved an 11-week extension of unemployment benefits.
It was supposed to provide a lifeline for jobless workers into 2021.
The state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) initially told claimants it would take four weeks to update its computer programming and get the money out, but more than eight weeks passed with no money and no answers.
"It was dangerous waiting to pay utilities, pay the car payment, pay the car insurance," said Tammy Meza, one of the increasingly frustrated Nevadans who reached out to 13 Investigates.
The state blamed the delay on computer coding and testing and asked for people's patience.
"The hardest part was not knowing," said claimant Terra Coggins.
"We couldn't get a timeline or an answer," Coggins said. "I'd like to think it just took that long, but two months? That's an awful long time to do computer coding."
Just a few days after we reached out, DETR started paying up.
"I don't know how to actually explain it other than reaching out to Channel 13 really helped the situation and everyone working together," said Meza.
This week, both women got all the money they'd been waiting for.
"It was retroactive back to Dec. 27, and also got those federal funds--the $300 a week," Meza said.
A sense of relief that's almost beyond words for folks who've been waiting months without income.
"I woke up the next morning and laid there for a few minutes just knowing that I didn't have to get up and make a phone call [to DETR] and that the only phone calls I would be making was to get those bills paid," Meza said.
Coggins also immediately paid past due bills.
And she did something else she advises other claimants in Facebook support groups to consider as a way to avoid falling victim to fraud.
"The first thing I did when I got the alert on my phone was I immediately transferred it out of my Bank of America account into my regular banking account" through an online transfer.
"If you do have to go to the bank, don't use an ATM. Go into the bank and work with a teller," she said.
"I know there's been reports of a lot of skimmers found recently and the people that are looking for that money know it's coming. They're in our groups," said Coggins. "They're following. Don't post your balance in the Facebook groups."
Both women want those still waiting for funds to know their payday is right around the corner.
"A lot of people are starting to lose faith and I just keep encouraging them on the group that it's coming," said Coggins.
"There are several of us that have seen it already," she said. "Hang in there. It's coming. I know it's hard but it's coming."
DETR anticipates extended benefits reaching claimant accounts by the end of the month.