The coronavirus pandemic has led to the shutdown of businesses and casinos throughout Nevada, causing thousands to seek help from the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, which oversees the unemployment office.
A total of 412,211 initial claims have been filed this year through the week that ended April 25 — further exceeding the number of claims filed in any full calendar year in state history — but only a portion have been processed.
The delay in processing unemployment insurance claims is taking a toll on Nevadans.
Carol and Tad Allen
A fundraising campaign created Monday on Facebook was a last-ditch effort to help pay bills and not the way Tad Allen anticipated celebrating his 60th birthday.
The Las Vegas resident was laid off from his job at car rental company Budget nine weeks ago and hasn’t received his unemployment insurance benefits, though he did receive his Bank of America debit card.
Allen said he has been calling the office multiple times a day over the past two months to find out why he has not been receiving payments but is unable to contact the office.
His wife, Carol Allen, said they’ve tried to scrape together extra cash by selling all of her jewelry — including her engagement ring. It was just enough to cover this month’s rent while the stimulus check helped cover other expenses. She’s not sure how they will pay rent for June or their other mounting bills.
“I don’t even know if we’re allowed to do the fundraiser, but we don’t have any other choice,” she said. “We’re desperate. What else are we supposed to do? It’s so sad and sucks to have to ask for help.”
Kate-Marie Stone, a stage hand for shows on the Strip, was able to file her unemployment insurance claim in March.
Everything appeared to be fine and she received her Bank of America debit card, but she’s still waiting to receive her first payment.
“If I hadn’t checked (my account) online I would have never seen the message saying there was an issue and it’s being reviewed,” Stone said. “And it doesn’t tell me what I need to do.”
Since March, she has been calling the unemployment office every day, starting at 7 a.m., to try to speak with someone to find out when her claim will be reviewed and what documents she may need to submit, adding that it’s unclear why her claim needs to be reviewed.
Luckily her husband is still working, even though he has reduced hours. She said the family of four, who live near Henderson, have just enough money to cover bills but “groceries get tight.”
“I have two kids — four and seven — so when it comes to explaining certain things to them I’ve said we shop differently,” Stone said.
An error message prompted Scott Linting to call the unemployment office in order to continue filing his claim for unemployment insurance benefits. That message popped up March 20, and Linting said he still hasn’t reached DETR.
“In all this time, I have had no assistance,” he said. “Money is running out; bills are stacking up and food is scarce.”
The graphic artist in Enterprise was laid off from his job and immediately filed for unemployment, but he has yet to see any funds.
He has called the two phone numbers for Southern and Northern Nevada residents, the 1-800 number for the third-party call center, a phone number to special claims and even the U.S. Department of Labor.
“I even tried driving down in person (to the office),” he said. “Trying to get a hold of DETR has left me exhausted, waking up early every day and calling every five seconds, and (feeling) defeated.”
As of Tuesday, he said, it had been 46 days without reaching anybody at the unemployment office or receiving any financial assistance.
International corporate travel agent Cheryl Butler-Adams has only a few weeks before she will need to find a new place to live.
“I get that it is a stressful time for us all but DETR took a stressful situation and made it far worse,” she said. “I have three weeks to get (my claim) together or my landlord will begin eviction proceedings on May 31.”
The Henderson resident needed to submit documentation to DETR from her employer that confirmed she was furloughed and could receive retroactive payments from February. Butler-Adams said she mailed the documents on March 26 but has not received any response and is still waiting for her claim to clear.
“I know the documents have been received, as I have fax confirmations and two FedEx signed confirmations,” she said. “To date, I have 16 weekly claims awaiting payment — (my) claim is 23 weeks so I am more than halfway done with my allotted (benefits) — and yet no payment.”
Las Vegas hairstylist Carmen LaBrake filed for unemployment for the first time two months ago, after her salon was one of many nonessential businesses in Nevada that had to temporarily close in March.
“It’s a bizarre situation, and it’s a painful situation,” she said.
LaBrake is an independent contractor and is unable to file for unemployment. DETR said its system will be ready to process claims from independent contractors, self-employed and gig workers in mid-May.
Still, LaBrake said she continues to file a weekly claim even though a message tells her she’s not eligible.
She also needs to move at the end of this month because she’s unable to afford rent; one of her roommates moved out and her second roommate, who works in the restaurant industry, was laid off.
While her landlord said she could stay, LaBrake was told she would be penalized and have to pay full rent as well as back pay on the discount on rent she received in March.
“I have to find a new residence, which is not easy right now because I show such little income,” she said. “I’m like, ‘I’m going to have to rent a bedroom at someone’s house and put everything in storage.’ And who is paying for that?”