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Gig workers find glitches on long-awaited jobless claim system

Updated May 19, 2020 - 8:48 am

An Uber and Lyft driver, David Shapin has been out of work with no income for two months.

The independent contractor was eager to file for unemployment insurance benefits Saturday, the first day the state system was available for him to do so.

He woke up early and gathered all the necessary financial documents from the past year.

But, in an ordeal similar to those faced by many other independent contractors, technical glitches on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance website made it difficult for him to file.

“The system said I was already registered and was not allowed to continue to the PUA registration,” he said. “Here I am, with a mortgage payment overdue and very, very frustrated … when I did everything I was supposed to do. I have 1099s, tax info, the works.”

The Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, which oversees the unemployment office, said it processed more than 38,000 claims on its portal, employnv.gov, for gig workers by 8:30 a.m. Monday, but some filers say they are still unable to complete a claim.

General contractor Mark Deaville went online Saturday to finally file for financial relief, only to find the website was down.

Frustrated is an understatement to describe how he feels, he says.

“There’s the fear, anxiety of not having money to be able to pay your rent, or pay your mortgage and truck payments,” he said. “I’m going to be declaring bankruptcy. It’s completely shut my business down. I don’t have any money. I didn’t have anything that would support myself, my family (of eight), my crew through this time. So now it’s like totally sunk my company.”

He didn’t know of other technical glitches because he wasn’t able to experience them.

“You can’t even get that far,” he said.

He hasn’t been able to get through the phone lines to the dedicated PUA call center and still wasn’t able to file as of Monday afternoon.

Technology hiccups

Claimants encountered a range of technical issues.

Notifications informed some filers of having an existing account, but unbeknownst to them.

Some had their sessions time out, causing them to have to restart their application.

Finding Nevada in an alphabetically ordered drop-down menu proved to be troubling for many, who assumed Nevada would be below Nebraska. But it was the first option on the list.

A stubborn CAPTCHA code reading error had one filer jump ship.

Those who were able to get through to the call center found at least one operator didn’t know the PUA system had launched.

DETR spokeswoman Rosa Mendez said sessions timing out has not been a reported trend but it is working with its vendor, Geographic Solutions, to determine the cause and address it as necessary.

For those who didn’t spot Nevada when needing to select a state, Mendez said it was listed as the first option as a “convenience for the filer” instead of appearing in the alphabetical list of states.

Mendez did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the call center or CAPTCHA code issue late Monday.

“DETR launched an enormously complex technological project and is pleased to report that tens of thousands of people have filed successful claims over the past weekend,” she said. “Our dedicated team is working closely with our vendor to identify and resolve issues as they arise.”

Round 2

Shapin said he received a message of having an existing account after entering his Social Security number. Thinking it was because he filed for benefits in March — when DETR’s system couldn’t process gig workers — he attempted to use his previous username and password.

He called the Alorica call center, dedicated to helping gig workers, and found the representative didn’t know the PUA system had launched.

“Two hours and 19 minutes later a woman from DETR actually answered, but she read me the wording on the (DETR) site saying we’ll be notified in mid-May. I said the governor announced it would be up today and she said, ‘Well, I don’t know how to handle it,’ (and) put me on hold for about six minutes and then the call cut off,” Shapin said.

Jeff Critelli, who also tried filing in March on the UInv website, had a similar problem when trying to register but figured out a workaround.

He clicked the link to reset his password, which he never established, and found the PUA system had created a username for him.

Critelli was then able to use the username to reset his password and sign in.

Mendez didn’t address the reset password quirk but said in a statement its two systems — UInv and employnv.gov — are independent and therefore would not use the same login credentials.

“If the claimant happened to register on employnv.gov prior to the PUA filing system going online, they would sign in, click Unemployment Services from the left menu, and then File a Claim,” Mendez said. “If they had not used employnv.gov prior to PUA deployment they will need to establish a new profile with new login credentials.”

Alan Mendelson said he was only able to file using DETR’s regular filing portal.

His hurdle on the PUA system was the final step: entering the CAPTCHA code.

“It got so frustrating,” he said. “After literally several hours of trying, I said, let me go back to the old website.”

Mendelson said he moved through the application process and a page appeared for self-employed workers, a page that didn’t appear when he tried to file in March.

“It allowed me to register and do my whole claim,” he said.

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

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