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 During the pandemic, a “tidal wave” of claims—including some 400,000 fraudulent ones—overwhelmed the outdated systems used to process unemployment claims.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 workedto connect eligible Nevadans to their benefits amidst historic claim levels and an unprecedented strain on the antiquatedunemployment insurance(UI)system,” Sisolak said. “That’s why during my State of the Stateaddressand in theEvery Nevadan Recovery Framework,Imade it a top prioritytomodernizeDETR’SUIsystemso 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 is a freelance editor and communications professional with 20 years’ experience working in 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. In her free time, she is a volunteer backpacking guide along the Tahoe Rim Trail, an avid home cook and baker, cyclist, wife and stepmom.