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New unemployment call center ‘waste’ of money, frustrated jobless say

Updated April 22, 2020 - 11:19 am

Las Vegas resident John Kim said he was “ecstatic” when he heard the state would set up a new call center to address questions on unemployment insurance claims.

The former New Life Adult Day Health Care Center employee hadn’t been to work since March 20 and has yet to see any money from the unemployment program, despite filing his initial claim nearly a month ago. He hoped the new phone lines would allow him to finally have questions answered and get his claim sorted out.

But the operator Kim reached wasn’t able to explain to him why his payments weren’t going through or how long he would have to wait until he would see any of the money. The operator could only answer “general questions” on the filing process.

“It was such a letdown,” Kim said. “The money was not well spent on the new call center. I would rather see extended hours, even 24/7 if it’s possible, by the actual (Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation) agency,” which oversees the state’s unemployment insurance program.

A number of frustrated claimants — many of whom have been waiting for weeks for unemployment insurance benefits — agree.

DETR spokeswoman Rosa Mendez said she had no comment on the new phone lines and was not able to provide statistics on how many callers the phone lines were able to assist.

‘Waste’ of resources

Mendez did share figures from Monday on prematurely ended calls, which appear to show operators were unable to assist more than 30 percent of callers. Of the 28,000 calls received Monday, 9,000 were prematurely ended by callers after listening to a message that said the call center does not have access to information on existing claims.

John D’Amico, a former event operator for marketing company Luster, called the new call center late last week after spending five weeks trying to get his unemployment claim approved.

After waiting on hold for nearly an hour, D’Amico was told by the operator that she would be unable to assist him.

“(They) provide nothing more than the very same info that is available on their (DETR’s) website,” D’Amico said. “It’s hard to imagine, given the trouble they’re having answering calls at DETR to open claims, that someone had the bright idea to open a second call center that can only provide general information. … (It’s) such a waste.”

D’Amico said he hasn’t gotten a paycheck since March 13. He was unable to pay this month’s rent and worries that he won’t see benefits in time to pay next month’s rent.

“I’m now officially broke,” he said. “I never anticipated that I’d be in this situation given that I’m qualified for unemployment.”

Ben Fisher, a furloughed executive valet lead at Planet Hollywood Resort, was able to get through to the new call center last week but was disappointed when the operator wasn’t able to tell him the status of his claim.

“I waited on hold two and a half hours,” he said. “The lady tried her best, but they have no computer access. They couldn’t pull up my claim information. They’re just there to walk you through how to file a claim or navigate the website. She couldn’t answer questions.”

Fisher filed his initial claim a month ago but has yet to see any unemployment insurance benefits.

‘I can’t talk to somebody’

Matthew Miller, a former Aria dealer whose last day of work was March 15, received one payment after he first filed for unemployment insurance.

Since then the funds have stopped, and he can’t find out why.

“It’s been four weeks since I’ve received anything else,” he said. “You can’t get anybody on the (DETR phone lines). Communication is impossible. … I tried sending faxes to three different numbers, and all were busy.”

Miller tried the new call center Monday but said it was “worthless” in helping him, since the operator was unable to look at his claim.

“It’s been so frustrating,” he said. “It’s possible there’s something I filled out wrong (on my claim), but I’ve never done this before. I’ve never been in this situation. But I can’t talk to somebody (to figure it out).”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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