Barbara Buckley, head of the strike force working on unemployment system issues, said Thursday they have made major strides in reducing the backlog of both regular unemployment and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims.
She said the existing employment security system was simply overwhelmed by the economic shutdown when claims went from about 20,000 a week to over 300,000.
One of the major issues, she said, was that the previous 181 ESD workers couldn’t deal with that volume of claims. With the addition of contractors and 200 welfare eligibility workers, she said the division staff is now up to 746 people, greatly relieving the workload.
She said today, the backlog of regular UI claims is zero for monetary eligibility and PUA claims are down to 16,000 from the original backlog of 217,000.
Buckley said most of those remaining PUA claims are believed to be fraudulent.
She said especially PUA has suffered from massive fraud.
“More applications have been filed than there are people in the state workforce,” she said. “Hundreds of thousands of claims. Our identities have been stolen and are being sold on the dark web.”
She said every state in the nation is facing the same fraud issues but that employment security has a better handle on fraud now than it did months ago.
Among the recommendations to Gov. Steve Sisolak and the Legislature, Buckley said, is replacement of the ESD computer system for regular benefits. She said it’s old, slow and doesn’t produce the kinds of reports and data that officials need.
In addition, she said the entire business process needs to be reviewed and updated because many of the forms and processes are confusing to claimants. She said real claimants need to look at those forms and tell ESD officials whether they are understandable.
In addition, the new system handling PUA claims can’t talk to the UI computer, further complicating the situation.
DETR Director Elisa Cafferata said the division still has thousands of applications to process but that in a few more weeks or months, they will be current.
She said the goal is to block fraudulent claims while making sure every Nevadan who is entitled to benefits gets them.