LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) released its latest weekly numbers and says it's investigating a reported 635% rise in initial PUA claims to begin the month of December.
For the week ending Dec. 5, initial claims for unemployment insurance (UI) totaled 8,783, up 2,341 claims, or 36.3%, compared to the previous week’s total of 6,442 claims, according to finalized data from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR).
This is only the second increase in regular initial claims activity since Oct. 24.
Through the week ending Dec. 5, there have been a total of 783,384 initial claims filed in 2020, 761,732 of which have been filed since the week ending March 14.
This comes at a time when the PUA program is nearing its end and thousands of Nevadans are still seeking help.
"Out of 19,000 that are actual members of the group, we have on average still to this day eight months after PUA started, 14,000 people actively seeking some type of answer," said Amber Hansen, who runs the PUA Pandemic Unemployment Facebook group, which started in May as a way for PUA claimants to connect, share information and discuss problems they're having with the system.
"There's a host of issues. It seems a daily thing. We seem to turn the corner with one thing and then four more show up," she said.
Currently, Hansen said people who have never received payment are concerned their cases won't be adjudicated after the program ends. DETR said they will.
Several are concerned about DETR making its Christmas Eve deadline in a class-action lawsuit, involving thousands who received payments and then abruptly saw them stop.
There are issues of overpayment, not being able to get through to someone on the phone and of course, whether the program will be extended.
As a PUA claimant herself, Hansen said she's on her last week of benefits with seemingly no end to the pandemic.
"I'm panicking. I've been fortunate. I've been collecting but I'm panicking," she said.
As of Friday, thousands are in limbo, waiting for answers to questions they've been asking - in some cases - for months.
DETR says Nevada’s Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which currently provides up to 13 weeks of benefits to individuals who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits, saw 98,178 claims filed in the week, an increase of 2,318 claims from last week’s total of 95,860.
Nevada’s State Extended Benefit (SEB) program currently provides up to 20 weeks of benefits to individuals who have exhausted both their regular and PEUC program benefits.
DETR reports Nevada saw 16,774 claims filed in the week, an increase of 1,942 claims from a week ago.
The insured unemployment rate for the regular UI program increased by 0.1% points to 6.1%. Including claimants in the benefit extension programs, the rate, more appropriately called the extended insured unemployment rate, was considerably higher at 14.4 percent, according to DETR.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides benefits for self-employed, 1099 contract workers, and gig workers saw 61,290 initial claims filed in the week ending Dec. 5, an increase of 52,945 claims, or 634.5 percent, from last week’s total of 8,345. Through the week ending Dec. 5, there have been a total of 719,250 PUA initial claims filed.
This marked increase is questionable given the underlying economic conditions.
DETR will investigate this latest change in the data to identify any potential trend related to increases in initial claim submittals.
There were 78,977 PUA continued claims filed in the week ending Dec. 5, a decrease of 4,533 claims, or 5.4%, from the previous week’s revised total of 83,510. This was the fewest continued claims filed in any week for the PUA program.