Las Vegas Sun

December 22, 2014

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Nevadans seeking unemployment checks frustrated with new computer system

Diane Wolf has been trying unsuccessfully since Aug. 30 to file her claim for unemployment benefits in Las Vegas.

The new computer system for the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, which cost close to $40 million in federal money, isn’t working and those without jobs are frustrated.

Ivan Duron, an unemployed construction worker in Las Vegas, said the old system worked fine but now he says he’s become “a victim” like so many others who experience long hours on the telephone waiting for a live employee to answer.

And the Internet system? It isn’t working either.

The department said Thursday it has installed additional phone lines in Las Vegas and Northern Nevada to take the claims.

Kelly Karch, deputy administrator of the Employment Security Division, said the system will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. He said the unemployed should “keep calling, relax and we will get to you.”

He said nobody would lose money because the claims will be backdated.

Wolf, an unemployed Teamster, said Friday that she’s been trying to phone in and either gets a busy signal or is put on hold for hours listening to recorded messages.

She said she called the office of Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, who told her to call Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office. But all she got was a recording from the governor’s office.

Mary-Sarah Kinner, press secretary to the governor, said he’s been aware of the problem and the efforts being made to remedy it. She said it has taken longer than anticipated to get the system working. And the governor is receiving updates.

Wolf said she went to the unemployment office in Las Vegas to use the phone system. But she got put on hold for four hours listening to recorded messages in English and Spanish.

“They had two weeks to test this and why did they try to start it up over Labor Day,” she asked.

The same problems are being experienced in Reno.

Claimants unable to get through the main number should call 486-3387 in Las Vegas on the additional lines.

Duron said he was on hold Friday for four hours and then gave the line up to another person. “The department is shut down,” he complained.

Duron said he is required to telephone in once a week to qualify for his benefits to continue, informing the department of his efforts to find work. In the old system, he said he may have had to wait 20 minutes and then completed the interview in three minutes.

Wolf said, “No one is talking to a human person” in the department.

The state agency and its contractor Cap-Gemini has been working on this jointly for four years transferring millions of records. He said the priority has been the claimants and the new system will be more efficient.

“I know there are a lot of desperate people but we have to get this right,” said Karch.

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