Nevada plans $72 million upgrade of unemployment insurance system

The Nevada Employment Service is to receive $72 million to modernize its unemployment insurance system, a project that will take four years to fully implement.

The Department for Employment, Training and Rehabilitation said Wednesday the modernization effort will help the department pay benefits, process appeals and make it easier to collect unemployment insurance taxes from employers.

“We’re making sure this system is designed to handle the economic ups and downs, be more responsive to businesses and claimants, and help our employees do their jobs better for Nevada residents,” said DETR Director Elisa cafferata

Colorado-based software company Fast Enterprises will be responsible for implementing the upgrades, and DETR has also hired project management consultant CSG.

Funding for the four-year project comes from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act. In 2021, the Nevada Legislature initially allocated $54 million in ARPA dollars to update the department’s system. In August, an additional $12.8 million was approved by the Interim Finance Committee. Cafferata said the latest price is higher due to “other funds available”.

“During the pandemic, we also received money from the Department of Labor to administer and run various unemployment programs,” she said. “And that’s where a portion (of the $72 million) comes from.”

Unrolled when done

The number of jobless claims skyrocketed during the pandemic, overwhelming the department and prompting a spate of payment delays and complaints from frustrated claimants. For the week ended March 21, 2020, it reported a record 92,298 regular initial claims. The previous high was in the week ended January 10, 2009 at 8,945.

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But some Nevadans are still struggling with their jobless claims, due in part to staff shortages, Cafferata said.

She acknowledged that staffing was an issue after pandemic-era rules that allowed DETR to hire contract workers ended and the department faced a tight easy job market.

She estimates DETR jobs have a rate of about 20 percent, but believes the modernization project will improve staffing because it will “tighten” its unemployment system.

Cafferata said although the contract to modernize the DETR system runs for four years, as soon as the updates are operational, they will be made available to the public.

“I don’t have the exact timeline of each piece,” she said. “But certain parts of the system will come online much sooner than (four years).”

According to Cafferata, one of the “first parts” to update is the way DETR notifies companies of unemployment insurance claims, which is currently done through the mail.

Scott Abbott, a managing partner at law firm Kamer Zucker Abbott, said most employers deal with DETR in the mail and receive a letter of claim filing. Noting that “there’s just a huge backlog,” he welcomed the forthcoming changes to his system.

“It’s a step in the right direction. It’s long overdue,” Abbott said.

Cafferata said the lengthy process is often the result of errors in an applicant’s application or issues raised by employers or individuals that require a decision. But about 60 percent of applications are processed within two weeks.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at [email protected] consequences @seanhemmers34 on twitter.

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