Sisolak: Nevada unemployment system not designed to handle load |

Sisolak: Nevada unemployment system not designed to handle load

Photographed through glass, streets are empty of traffic along the Las Vegas Strip as casinos and other business are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, Tuesday, April 14, 2020, in Las Vegas.
AP Photo/John Locher

Saying the existing unemployment system was never designed to handle 300,000 applications for benefits in the past month, state officials have nearly tripled the number of unemployment workers trying to handle the impact.

Amid complaints that people can’t get through despite calling all day for more than a week, Gov. Steve Sisolak said: “The system was never set up to handle this volume of calls and claims.”

He pointed out that is one in 10 Nevadans.

But Sisolak said now is not the time to totally upgrade the system because it would have to be shut down for days or weeks to do that.

To handle the impact, he said the agency has increased its staff from 70 to 200 and a contractor has been hired to add another 100 people to the call centers handle the load.

“A complete overhaul at this time would do more harm than good,” Sisolak said.

But Kimberly Gaa of the Employment Security Division and Sisolak said they will back-date all applications for benefits to March 15. They said people will not lose money because of application issues caused by the system overload.

In addition, Gaa said they will as soon as possible get the $600 a week added benefit through July to those qualified for unemployment as well as the added 13 weeks of UI benefits all will receive.

One issue, Gaa said, is the fact that people are supposed to renew their unemployment benefits every week on Sunday. She said that overloads the system.

Instead, Gaa said they want people with names ending in the letters A through K should file Sunday. Those with names ending L through R should refile on Monday. Those with names ending S through Z should file on Tuesday to relieve the load on the system.

So far, Gaa said, the state has paid out more than $200 million in unemployment benefits. The state’s Trust Fund started the pandemic at $1.9 billion.

The governor also urged people to rely on their local media — newspapers and television — to provide information saying they have done a good job of providing accurate data on the virus.

Sisolak also said he is talking with Supreme Court Justice Jim Hardesty about the calls by advocates to release large numbers of prison inmates to prevent them from contracting the virus. Prison officials said just last week that only two people at corrections have tested positive — both staff members — and that in person visitation has been cut off with staff being checked for symptoms every day to prevent them from bringing the disease into an institution.