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Nevada gig workers frustrated by unemployment system notifications

Las Vegan Victoria Waked finds herself trapped amid a seemingly never-ending list of messages telling her the claim she filed for unemployment insurance benefits can’t be processed.

“Unemployment not result of disaster,” one message reads. Another says “lack of work” while the message below says “working full time.”

The independent contractor said the notifications appeared after filing her continuing claim on Saturday.

The Nevada unemployment office launched a new webpage for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program May 16 that allowed gig workers, contractors and the self-employed to get into the unemployment benefit system. The launch had a bumpy start. A week later on Saturday, the website allowed filers to claim weekly benefits. But it too appears to be having a rocky rollout.

“I finished everything, went through it, and it said no unresolved issues — it was wonderful,” Waked said. “Then I go (back) in, and it says here are my list of issues.”

Other Nevadans are reporting similar messages, including “unemployment ended” and “other program eligibility,” tacked on to their claims.

DETR exploring issue

There is also a notification explaining that the list of outstanding claim issues will take up to 21 days to be resolved but no further detail on the next steps needed by the filer or whom the filer should contact.

The Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation said it is looking into the issue.

It’s unclear if the messages are caused by a technical glitch associated with the website’s recent launch and subsequent updates or are issues that DETR must adjudicate before filers can receive their payments.

DETR Director Heather Korbulic told the Review-Journal earlier this month that the department has been exploring a way to pay claimants “at least their basic or median benefit while we adjudicate on the back end.”

In the meantime, Waked is starting to run out of her savings and has maxed out her credit card.

“I haven’t been able to pay rent for two months,” she said. “I’m a single mom. I have a kid with a disability. I was quarantining, following the rules. I was all for it because I don’t want my son to be sick, but at this point, why? They’re not taking care of us as promised, as we’re entitled to.”

‘I just want some help’

Henderson resident Cynthia Luna said she noticed on Tuesday that her online claim was flagged with “IP-Investigation Case Special Project,” but by Wednesday afternoon, it disappeared and shows she has no outstanding claim issues.

Luna said she started to feel relieved but remains unsure.

“If you look above (my claim) where it has all my info, it says ‘unresolved issues: yes,’ but yet the section ‘claim under review’ says no,” Luna said. “I don’t understand. I’m like everybody else; I just want some help.”

She has tried calling the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance call center since Saturday. The center is dedicated to adjudicating and helping independent contractors, self-employed workers and gig workers — who are short-term or temporary workers usually connecting with customers through an online platform such as Uber or Instacart — file for benefits.

But after about 30 minutes the line simply disconnects, Luna said. Other callers also have faced difficulty reaching someone at the call center, operated by third-party company Alorica.

“It just kicks you off — no explanation, no nothing,” she said. “Everything I’m hearing though is most of the Alorica people don’t know what’s going on with the system anyways, so I guess I’m just going to wait. … I don’t know what else to do.”

If Luna’s claim does have unresolved issues that need to be adjudicated, she will have to wait until at least Monday to try to get answers.

A notice on employnv.gov — the website for contractors and gig workers to file claims — displays a message that Alorica’s adjudicators “will not be active or available to take telephone calls until 6/01/2020.”

DETR said Wednesday that filers can still contact the call center to receive help with other questions.

“The message that you’re seeing on our webpage is specific to the PUA adjudication center, not the PUA call center,” DETR spokeswoman Rosa Mendez said in an emailed statement. “Callers with questions about filing for PUA should continue to contact the call center. We are currently working on training call center staff to adjudicate PUA claims, this functionality will be available beginning on June 1, 2020.”

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.

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