Nevada still has no concrete date for when it will begin accepting unemployment claims from gig workers and other self-employed people.

A spokesperson for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) on Monday told the Current Nevada’s Pandemic Unemployment (PUA) program would launch “mid-May” but did not specify what date range that might entail.

Whatever the date ends up being: It is already clear that Nevada is lagging behind other states when it comes to providing financial relief for people who are self-employed, freelancers or gig workers. These workers are largely ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits but have been promised help through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, part of the $2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress.

Dmitri Koustas, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, and two of his colleagues have been tracking the implementation of PUA across the country. They reported that, as of May 8, Nevada was the only state not accepting unemployment claims from 1099 workers.

Seven other states have begun accepting claims but have not yet processed them.

Representatives from DETR last week explained to lawmakers that the state’s system was not equipped to handle PUA claims and an entirely new system was needed. The state has contracted with an outside vendor to set up that system. They have also contracted with a private call center that will handle PUA-related calls. (That call center is currently operating but focused solely on answering “general questions,” much to the chagrin of people with questions regarding their specific claims.)

The governor’s office Monday also announced that DETR would be provided “emergency flexibility for personnel standards including hiring of temporary staff, rehiring of retirees or former employees on a non-competitive basis.” The move will help the agency handle “all facets of the UI and CARES Act processes,” DETR Director Heather Korbulic said in the statement.

Nevada’s unemployment office currently instructs self-employed workers (often called 1099 workers) to not file for unemployment through the state’s existing website but to wait for further guidance from the state.

The delay in implementing PUA may prove financially devastating for workers currently in limbo. It has been eight weeks since Gov. Steve Sisolak began ordering businesses to temporarily shut down. For the many 1099 workers tied to hospitality, conventions or entertainment industries, the financial hardships began even earlier as the fear of the coronavirus spread across the nation and cancellations began happening en masse.

Nevada has seen a tenfold increase in the number of unemployment claims being processed. The unemployment rate is currently at an unprecedented high.

Work search waiver extended

Nevadans receiving (traditional) unemployment benefits will not be required to seek new employment beginning next week.

The DETR spokesperson confirmed to the Current Monday the work-search requirement has now been waived “until further notice.” The waiver was previously scheduled to expire at the end of this week.

Typically, people receiving unemployment benefits had to log their efforts to find a new job. But with unemployment at an unprecedented record high and much of the economy still shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, finding new employment may be all but impossible for many.

Gov. Steve Sisolak waived the work-search requirement on March 18, days after he shut down much of the economy. He also waived the seven-day waiting period between applying and receiving unemployment.

*by April Corbin Girnus via Nevada Current*

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