Nevada takes $10.7 million from feds to help unemployment processing
The Interim Finance Committee on Thursday approved acceptance of up to $10.7 million in federal money largely to try to eliminate the huge backlog in people filing for unemployment.
Heather Korbulic, the newly-appointed director of the Department of Employment Training and Rehabilitation, told lawmakers that, before the virus struck, Nevada’s unemployment division was receiving 10,000 new claims for benefits per month.
“We’re now receiving 10,000 a day,” she said, adding that the current system runs through the state telephone system.
To try to fix the problem, she said they are putting together a contract to move the entire filing system to a cloud-based system because the state phone system is unable to handle the load.
Kimberly Gaa of the Employment Security Division said they are also working to get the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that will enable the independent contractors, gig workers and others currently unable to get benefits to do so. She said that program is designed to help those people who are “not otherwise eligible.”
Since many of those people are currently applying but can’t, yet, get benefits Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said it would make sense to tell those people to hold off until May 15 when the PUA program will hopefully go live.
Korbulic said now that the contracts have been executed, the department is working to put together some outreach to help people navigate the system
Gaa said they are also working on other changes to processes at the division to speed up and ease the process of applying for and receiving benefits.
In addition, the legislative panel approved three work programs, each worth $416,000, to provide temporary medical staff to the state prison system to help keep the virus out of Nevada’s prisons and conservation camps.
Department of Corrections Director Charles Daniels said the money will support up to 28 registered nurses to staff entry points at each institution focused exclusively on examining and testing everyone who enters any prison institution. He said that includes temperature testing for a fever, runny noses, sore throats and other signs of respiratory distress. Prison officials said that, while they now have 11 staff who have tested positive for the coronoavirus but no inmates.
They said that is in large part because the department reacted early in February to begin social distancing, masks for staff and others coming in and out of any of the institutions.
But Assemblywoman Dr. Robin Titus, R-Wellington, suggested that they really don’t need RN’s for that duty, that Licensed Practical Nurses and other lower level medical professionals could handle the examinations. Prison medical officials said in the current market, RN’s are easier to find and hire than LPN’s.
The money will come from the Inmate Welfare Account, Inmate Offenders Store and Prison Store funds. But lawmakers were told they fully expect to get reimbursed for “every penny” of that and restore it to the inmate funds within the system.