Las Vegas Sun

December 19, 2014

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Nevada highlighted in federal neglect in unemployment system

A report by a national group says federal neglect leaves state unemployment systems in disrepair and it cites Nevada as one of the five states with major problems.

The National Employment Law Project said in its report Tuesday that lack of federal funds and oversight has resulted in a "devastating impact on workers and their families."

The group, which is an advocacy organization for employment rights of lower wage earners, cites California, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Nevada in highlighting the problems facing the states.

The group said Nevada tried to cure the problems with a new Internet system "with strained staff resources and inadequate levels of funding and expertise." It resulted in "a major disruption of access for unemployed claimants to file and have exacerbated claim-processing backlogs.”

The state spent nearly $40 million in federal money to update its old computer system. And after the rollout in September, the system would not process new claims and the jobless had to wait hours on the telephone to talk to a live employee to get help.

Kelly Karch, deputy director of the state Division of Employment Security, said Tuesday the major problems have been solved but there are still issues to correct. But he said 46,000 people are receiving their weekly unemployment checks.

The division had some of its workers on Saturday shifts to take calls. Karch said the call centers are still open and there is a periodic backlog. The voice recording system is still working for people who want to use the telephone.

Eventually he said the division wants everybody to use the Internet system for filing claims.

Karch notes Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

The emphasis is on serving the customers, he said.

The law project said the new system was down for one week and the agency was flooded with 70,000 telephone calls.

The report says the problems nationwide are expected to worsen when states have to absorb a loss of more than $200 million in administrative funding due to federal sequestration cuts.

Before the upgrade, the project said Nevada’s system of handling unemployment claims was 15 years old. Some other states had systems that were 30-40 years old.

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