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Bill to fund unemployment system upgrades introduced in Assembly


Gov. Steve Sisolak this week touted new legislation introduced in the Assembly on Wednesday that would designate $54 million in federal funds for upgrades to the state’s unemployment insurance system.

Assembly Bill 484 would allocate the funds from the $2.9 billion expected to come to Nevada through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Nevada’s unemployment insurance system is managed by the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR). During the pandemic, a “tidal wave” of claims—including some 400,000 fraudulent ones—overwhelmed the outdated systems used to process unemployment claims.

The backlog was a source of complaints for months as people struggled to make ends meet while waiting for their claims to be approved.

“Throughout the pandemic, the employees at DETR have worked to connect eligible Nevadans to their benefits amidst historic claim levels and an unprecedented strain on the antiquated unemployment insurance (UI) system,” Sisolak said. “That’s why during my State of the State address and in the Every Nevadan Recovery Framework, I made it a top priority to modernize DETR’S UI system so our State has the proper tools to get benefits out the door quickly and detect and prevent fraud.”

In August of 2020, amidst the crisis at DETR, the governor created a “Rapid Response Strike Force” to identify issues within the unemployment system and make recommendations to improve its operations. The group recommended replacing the division’s technology infrastructure “in the near future” when it released its report in February. They found that in some instances, the programs relied on coding that was more than 20 years old.

“The UI system was never designed to handle the unprecedented volume of claims caused by the reaction to the pandemic: a 1,455% increase in claims,” the strike force wrote in their report.

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.