weather icon Clear

Las Vegas gig workers say ‘no communication’ coming from DETR

Independent contractor Patrick McLean woke up early to call the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation on Monday, the day the agency said gig workers would be able to speak with the department’s adjudicators to receive help with issues holding up their unemployment insurance claim.

He dialed a call center dedicated to helping claimants like him when the phone line opened at 8 a.m. but heard a busy signal.

Adam Kowalskii called a number he found on his determination letter sharing what he is eligible to receive. He, too, heard a busy signal.

Others tried calling a different number, one for traditional filers, each guessing at the “right” number to call.

Many of Nevada’s gig workers, independent contractors and self-employed workers trying to receive unemployment benefits say they are frustrated by the information — or lack thereof — coming from the agency and feel like they can’t catch a break. Some claimants have become so frustrated they’ve organized a protest.

“There’s no communication, no transparency,” Kowalskii said.

Kowalskii and others called Monday despite the fact that the website still said the “PUA Adjudication Center will not be active or available to take telephone calls until 6/01/2020.” PUA refers to the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which makes independent contractors, self-employed workers and gig workers eligible for unemployment benefits.

“I thought (DETR) was going to pay first and adjudicate later,” Kowalskii said, referencing DETR Director Heather Korbulic’s reported comments. “I get this is a new software, but we’re going off your words. But you keep changing it. You keep pushing the goalpost down.”

Waiting game

Korbulic said Friday that filers whose claims need to be adjudicated will receive updates and notifications about the process in their account mailboxes on the EmployNV website.

Spokeswoman Rosa Mendez confirmed on Monday that individuals will be contacted directly, similarly to how regular filers receive adjudication notices directly from DETR. She said they should contact the main PUA call center at 800-603-9681 for any issues.

Kowalskii said he discovered a different phone number on his determination letter, which claimants receive after filing their initial claim.

He first tried calling the number last week after filing his weekly claim to “make sure everything is right.”

“I got through to someone, and they’re like, ‘Hello?’” he said. “He was a technician (and) said this line is not going live until (June) first and sorry, they shouldn’t have put the phone number on my determination letter.”

Kowalskii said he still tried to call the adjudication phone number on Monday, despite Korbulic’s Friday message to wait for directions from DETR. He said he hasn’t received any communication from the office, noting that his claim shows an “unresolved issue” but no additional details outlining what is wrong.

Meanwhile, McLean has tried to call both the adjudication phone number he spotted online and the main PUA call center.

He said he began calling the main PUA call center as soon as it opened at 8 a.m. Monday. He estimated he’d called about 20 times as of 2:30 p.m., but the best luck he had was a 30-minute hold period. Then nothing.

“It said, ‘All agents are busy; call back in a few minutes.’ Click,” McLean said.

He’s frustrated with the process. When asked his feelings on DETR communication about the PUA adjudication process, he replied: What communication?

“No way to leave a number and have someone call you. There’s no email abilities, no chat on the website. How do I communicate?” McLean said.

Taking action

Some claimants are finding a more public way of voicing their concerns.

Las Vegan Nie Schweigen helped organize the small protest outside the Grant Sawyer State Office Building, 555 E. Washington Ave., on Monday morning. She’s also organizing what she hopes is a larger protest at the Fountains of Bellagio on Thursday night.

While DETR touts success stories, a number of people are still struggling to acquire financial aid, Schweigen said in a text message interview. She asked to do the interview by text so she could keep her line open to call the PUA center.

“We’re on the verge of eviction, losing cars. We haven’t been able to pay our utilities,” she said.

Schweigen said she and her husband have called the main PUA line a number of times, and agents have told them to wait for the special adjudication line to open.

DETR told claimants last week that it was training staffers from the third-party Alorica call center to adjudicate PUA claims and would be ready June 1.

“My husband is on call 26 right now,” she said at 4:20 p.m. “All we want are direct answers, solutions and to be paid.”

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the phone number of the PUA call center.

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter. Las Vegas Review-Journal writer Mike Shoro contributed to this story.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas gives notice of potential layoffs - VIDEO
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas sent the state notice of potential layoffs at the 3,000-room property on the Las Vegas Strip.
Is Nevada the ‘gold standard’ for casino coronavirus response? - Video
Whenever experts begin comparing gaming jurisdictions, you’re bound to hear the phrase “gold standard” dropped in the conversation. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Resorts World Las Vegas activates 100,000-square-foot LED screen - VIDEO
Resorts World Las Vegas activated its 100,000-square-foot LED screen on its west tower on Independence Day, showing a digital fireworks display. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Station Casinos president dies in watercraft accident - VIDEO
Richard Haskins, president of Red Rock Resorts Inc. and Station Casinos, died Saturday in a watercraft accident in Michigan, according to a statement released by the company. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hockey arena opponents erred in ballot initiative - Video
Opponents of a minor league hockey arena in Henderson collected enough verified signatures to put the disputed project on the November ballot, but then a problem emerged: A procedural error on the petition.
Layoffs at 'The Drew' force staff to sue owner
Rj Business reporter Eli Segall talks about the lawsuit and the future of the unfinished hotel and casino.
Vegas tourists react to mask mandate - VIDEO
Governor Steve Sisolak announced on Wednesday a mandate to wear face masks starting Friday. Down on the Las Vegas Strip tourists reacted on camera to the news. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA #VegasSmart social media campaign brings awareness to wearing a mask - Video
Now that Gov. Steve Sisolak has announced requirements to wear masks in public settings in the state, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will attempt to deliver the message to prospective visitors via their #VegasSmart social media campaign. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada's unemployment crisis - Video
Thousands of jobless workers turned to the state for payments after the COVID-19 shutdown in March. DETR has struggled to handle record claims. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars mandates guests to wear masks
Guests at Caesars Entertainment Corp. properties will be required to wear masks while inside its properties, effective immediately.
MGM Grand and Aria are reopening pool clubs - Video
MGM Grand’s Wet Republic Ultra Pool and Aria’s Liquid Pool Lounge plan to open July 2, according to a Wednesday statement from MGM Resorts International and Hakkasan Group. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Survey shows big reluctance to travel with coronavirus ablaze - VIDEO
Would-be travelers are becoming more pessimistic in their outlook about their safety when they travel. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown's Circa resort will begin taking room reservations Wednesday - Video
Circa developer Derek Stevens confirmed that when the property opens on Oct. 28, persons under the age of 21 won’t be allowed. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Las Vegas’ Circa resort will begin taking room reservations - Video
Downtown Las Vegas’ Circa resort will begin taking room reservations on Wednesday. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Culinary union expresses concerns about returning to work - Video
The Culinary union expresses its concerns about returning to work and the safety precautions that casinos are taking to ensure the safety of staff.
Bellagio poker room reopens with approval to host six-handed games - Video
The installation of plexiglass dividers between the players gave the Bellagio an edge over the other poker rooms open in Las Vegas. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Westgate reopens after coronavirus shutdown - Video
Jay Kornegay, vice president of Westgate Sportsbook, talks about the reopening of the casino on Thursday, June 18. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Final beam of Circa resort tower moved into place - Video
A crane whisked the final beam in the construction of downtown Las Vegas’ Circa resort property into place Friday morning, June 19, and crews paused momentarily, then continued working to ensure the casino's Oct. 28 opening. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paris Las Vegas reopens - Video
The Paris Las Vegas hotel-casino reopened its doors on June 18 after the statewide shutdown in response to COVID-19. (Mackenzie Behm/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masks required at casino table games in Nevada - Video
The state Gaming Control Board has ordered Nevada casinos to require players and spectators of most casino table and card games to wear protective face coverings.
Downtown Las Vegas’ Circa to open in October - Video
Circa resort-casino’s first five floors are set to open Oct. 28, according to CEO and developer Derek Stevens. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas movie theaters set July reopening date - Video
Las Vegas movie theater reopenings will start Regal, the valley’s largest exhibitor, announced Tuesday that it will reopen its theaters starting July 10, albeit in a modified fashion. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Contractors say they’re owed $36M for work done at Drew Las Vegas - Video
Three months after coronavirus turmoil shut off construction of the Drew Las Vegas, contractors have levied claims for more than $36 million in unpaid bills. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Contractors say they’re owed $36M for work done at Drew Las Vegas
Three months after coronavirus turmoil shut off construction of the Drew Las Vegas, contractors have levied claims for more than $36 million in unpaid bills. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Many Las Vegas guests ignoring COVID-19 protocols
Casinos are putting safety first but many Las Vegas guests are not socially distancing.
As Las Vegas casinos reopen, not every employee is convinced it's safe to go back.
As Las Vegas casinos reopen, some employees aren't convinced it's safe to go back.
1.54M Americans filed for unemployment last week - Video
The U.S. Labor Department released the unemployment numbers on Thursday, June 11. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1.54 Million Americans Filed for Unemployment Last Week
1.54 Million Americans Filed for Unemployment Last Week. The U.S. Labor Department released the unemployment numbers on Thursday. The number of jobless claims was just below economists' predictions of 1.55 million claims. 1.897 million Americans applied for unemployment insurance the previous week. More than 44 million Americans have filed jobless claims in the past three months. Continuing claims nearly topped 21 million. The numbers follow the May jobs report, which revealed that more than two million jobs were added to the U.S. economy in May. Initial jobless claims continued the gradual downward trend. But it is still hard to square the claims figures with the much more upbeat news on the labor market from May’s Employment Report, Capital Economics, via Yahoo Finance
Visitors return to Las Vegas
Guests returned to Las Vegas casinos throughout the weekend. Casinos reopened on Thursday after being closed for 78 days because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Sisolak tours casino property after reopening - Video
Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sandra Morgan, chairwoman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, participated in a tour of the Wynn Las Vegas hotel-casino where they share their first thoughts on casinos reopening. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)