Gov. Steve Sisolak yesterday afternoon signed a bill related to unemployment insurance passed during the 32nd Legislative Special Session.
Senate Bill 3 will help provide more flexibility to Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) “to help connect claimants to benefits faster and will extend the number of weeks Nevadans are eligible for additional benefits through this crisis, using only federal funds,” said an official statement from the governor’s office.
Gov. Sisolak announced a number of “rapid response” measures, including the appointment of Elisa Cafferata as the new acting director of the department. Cafferata was most recently Deputy Administrator of Field Operations Support for the Division of Welfare and Support Services. The position she’s filling has been vacant since June, when Heather Korbulic requested a transfer back to her previous role as executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, citing threats to her safety made by people angry at delayed unemployment benefits.
Sisolak added that Barbara Buckley, Majority Leader of the Nevada Assembly from 2001-2007 and Speaker of that body from 2007-2010, will lead the efforts.
Cause of delay and what can Nevadans expect?
Gov. Sisolak acknowledged that the delays have been caused by “an antiquated computer system, a historic, unprecedented demand, and fraudulent actors from inside and outside Nevada filing false claims.”
He also pointed out that the “brand new” Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is “highly susceptible to fraud.”
It is “unacceptable that people have been waiting for months,” Sisolak said.
The new task force will find solutions to “improving business processes within DETR, potential information technology, and policy solutions to reduce the backlog,” and work in consultation with public-private partners, he said.
New appointee Buckley detailed that the goal is to “remove backlog from payment” by taking actionable steps.
She said that the process to bring in better verification plans is underway; a gap in the verification method is identified as one of the main reasons delaying the payments. If the new verification efforts are successful, Nevadans can expect solutions soon.
“I hope to have these claimants approved in the next week,” said Buckley.
At this point, DETR would also focus on deterring the fraudulent claims, she added.
She is relying on a “diverse team,” she said, to find solutions. Current and former leaders from companies such as Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, and tech companies like Clairvoyant and Siemens, are volunteering their time to solve the problem. Buckley mentioned that the team is considering bringing in IT solutions and a data verification plan.
The new department team is also discussing a “temporary transfer of eligibility workers and offering them overtime to join the DETR employees who have already been working day and night,” said Buckley. “All resources of the government will be engaged to help.”
Going forward, the department is planning to “prepare a dashboard online and quantify the backlog and then report back on how much we were able to reduce it,” said Buckley. “The goal is to be very transparent.”
Another priority will be to pay out people who filed first.
“This piece of legislation is not a silver bullet or the final word,” said Sisolak. “But, there is no doubt that it will help Nevadans for both the short and long-term going forward.”