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Nevada lawmakers, residents discuss issues with state's unemployment department

Posted at 7:29 AM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 15:04:06-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Lawmakers and public members were grilling the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation officials over their handling of the state's unemployment system on Wednesday as DETR presented a new bill to the state's Legislature.

Director Elisa Cafferata told the Senate Labor and Employment Committee that the DETR team has made significant progress on clearing out the state's massive payout backlog - clearing 95% of the backlog through August. However, several viewers have informed 13 Action News of continued issues, including payment through the unemployment office.

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DETR says it has currently paid out $9 billion during the pandemic – more than 1 ½ times the amount paid over the last 12 years combined.

Cafferata also says the department has seen rampant fraud with more initial unemployment claims being filed than there are workers employed in Nevada.

But Sen. Keith Pickard called that a rosy picture of the department's performance during Wednesday's meeting and put doubt on the progress based on calls to his office.

"They were frustrated because they had tried for months to get through, whether online or on the phone, and so the presentation you just gave is exactly the opposite of my indirect experience through my constituents," Pickard said.

The new bill DETR says will avoid downturn-related issues. The most significant parts of the bill would change how business payment rates are calculated and remove the ability for people to use alternative base periods if they hadn't worked enough to qualify.

Cafferata says the rate change would likely increase payments on some businesses, but it would stabilize the rates.

Attorney Mark Thierman urged people to testify at the state Capitol Wednesday morning on their experience with DETR.

He says the bill the Legislature is trying to pass lacks a number of important protections and claims the current legislation is more of a band-aid than a needed overhaul of the agency. Thierman says people need to share the frustrations they've had with the system.