About 30,000 more people who applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for independent workers have been paid compared with last week's totals, state officials said Friday.
Heather Korbulic, director of the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), said in a weekly video conference briefing that 78,734 PUA claimants had received payment to date.
That's up from 47,582 paid claimants a week ago; the total of new payments made is an increase from the approximately 20,000 claimants newly getting paid in the prior week.
But the number of initial claims for the program rose by about the same amount. There have been 147,460 applications for the program to date, up from 116,996 a week earlier.
Of the total PUA applications, about 106,000 people are thought to be eligible. That means about 27,000 people who are eligible have yet to receive those benefits.
“DETR has made great progress in processing both the unemployment insurance and PUA claims,” Korbulic said. “Based on automated jobs that we've implemented this past week, we anticipate that both of those numbers will continue to see expedited processing over the next two weeks.”
The update comes as claimants continue to report troubles securing their benefits, including that they don't see indication of unresolved issues in a claims portal but still are not seeing payment. Others report continued problems getting through the phone lines to an operator.
Korbulic said that the state and its vendors have made progress addressing robocalls that jam up phone lines.
“We are seeing some minimal relief from these efforts,” she said. “We're asking claimants to refrain from using apps to robocall the lines in order to ensure that more calls are accepted.”
Korbulic also addressed responses DETR provided to lawmakers last week that indicated 40,000 unresolved claims issues require intervention from qualified state employees, and only eight employees are working on that particular backlog. She noted that in some cases, single claims have multiple issues.
“Much of the work to resolve issues has now been automated, as is reflected in today's numbers,” she said. “Automation provides additional filtering to our staff to minimize the number of required manual interventions.”
Many PUA claims that are being denied are rejected because the claimant is eligible for standard, state-funded unemployment insurance rather than federally funded PUA. She said the agency uses workers from its call center contractor, Alorica, to resolve issues that do not have “overlapping considerations” or questions of which program the person is eligible for.
Standard unemployment statistics
In their latest weekly report on Friday, DETR officials reported there were 10,620 initial claims filed the week ending June 13, which is a drop of 128 claims week over week. Still, a total of 528,545 initial claims had been filed to the state in 2020 through last week — a number that represents a third of the workforce.
The number of continued claims, or people filing week after week for standard benefits, was 313,009, down 22,173 claims. The insured unemployment rate, or ratio of continued claims to people eligible for the benefits, was 22.6 percent, down 1.6 percentage points.
The drop “likely reflects some claimants returning to work,” officials said.
Standard claims that are not being paid because of a “pending issue” went down from 33,310 in last week's report to 23,777 in this week's update. The number of eligible claimants who weren't paid in the most recent week because they are now considered employed rose from 9,306 to 17,751 week over week.
Korbulic leaving post as interim DETR director
A few hours after Friday's press conference, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that Korbulic was leaving her post after less than two months on the job.
Sisolak said Korbulic requested the transfer out of concern for her personal safety. She'll move back to her previous role as executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, and an interim director will be determined within the next week.
Korbulic had become the target of online angst over delays in the payment of unemployment benefits. Online ire from people who say they have gone months without income has reached a fever pitch, with claimants flooding social media with pleas for help, stories of desperation and calls for Korbulic and Sisolak's ousters.
In announcing Korbulic's departure, Sisolak touted milestones for DETR during her seven-week tenure, including working through more than 131,000 backlogged claims and launching the PUA program.
“Heather's coordinated project management experience has benefited the department and the dedicated staff who work tirelessly to connect Nevadans to unemployment benefits,” Sisolak said. “I am so grateful to her for taking on this challenging project to make sure Nevadans were able to access their benefits.”
Korbulic took over after the previous director, Tiffany Tyler-Garner, resigned in April in the earlier stages of the state's unemployment crisis.
Nevada's April unemployment rate of 28.2 percent was the highest of any state in any month since modern record-keeping began in 1976.
The Nevada Independent is a 501(c)3 nonprofit news organization. The following people or entities mentioned in this article are financial supporters: David Schmidt - $40.00; Heather Korbulic - $965.00; and Steve Sisolak - $3,200.00.