The Nevada unemployment benefits system is overloaded by the COVID-19 pandemic layoffs that have brought the state economy to a standstill. And patience is wearing thin for many of the 170,596 claimants who have filed over the past three weeks.
Processing the unemployment claims is resulting in lengthy time periods before qualified applicants are receiving payments. The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) says it is unable to advise those seeking unemployment pay as to when money might be received.
The unemployment website and phone system is a joke,” tweeted Lisa Roe. “The unemployed of Nevada need help now. There is no more time to waste.”
Numerous social media users are also voicing their frustrations in trying to file. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) ordered the closure of all 219 casinos in the state on March 17. The directive is impacting some 206,000 gaming industry workers.
For the first time in my life I’m collecting unemployment. I am furloughed from my casino and should have my job back. In the meantime, it would be nice to be able to log on to the Nevada unemployment website, but of course Sisolak can’t even get that working,” Vegas4life tweeted.
After Sisolak said Monday that he “had a productive two-hour phone call” with Vice President Mike Pence, more critics fired back.
I’ve had a non-productive 3+ hours and counting phone call with unemployment insurance,” said one Las Vegas resident. Another chimed in, “How about fixing the unemployment problem? Casino workers have been trying to get our unemployment for two weeks and it’s busy all day.”
Nevada has 1,953 coronavirus positive cases, and 46 residents have died from the disease.
Time Running Out
Many casinos offered their employees one or two weeks of pay following Sisolak’s order to suspend operations. Those two weeks have come and gone, forcing tens of thousands of workers to sit at home with no incoming money.
While workers at Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts are being paid through at least May 15, billionaire Sands owner Sheldon Adelson explaining it is his company’s obligation to “maximize the number of employees and their families that we can help,” casino workers at other companies are not so fortunate.
The $2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump last month increases state unemployment benefits by $600 a week through July 31, 2020. But DETR says it hasn’t received those funds yet, the website listing the component’s status as “awaiting federal guidance.”
Sisolak’s executive order suspended all evictions and foreclosures in the state for as long as Nevada remains in a “state of emergency.” MGM Resorts, the largest employer in Nevada, says 60,000 of its employees have been furloughed.
Speaking with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, DETR spokesperson Rosa Mendez says qualified unemployment applicants will receive pay from when they first became eligible.
“Claims will be paid without waiting seven days for administrative review to ensure the most prompt payment of claims possible,” Mendez explained.
Nevada casinos will remain closed through the end of the month, per Sisolak’s order. One thing is for certain, and that is the coronavirus economic impact on Nevada, a state that relies on tourism more than any other, will be felt for many months – and possibly years – to come.