A comprehensive report examining the unemployment benefit system and how to address delays in processing payments for pandemic unemployment assistance claims found that multiple ‘bottlenecks’ and ‘fractures’ were causing problems the state employment agency and claimants.The 310-page report identified eight main factors behind the late payments from the Ministry of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation and the thousands of contract and self-employed workers who applied for PUA benefits under the CARES law. The report was released to the media on Friday by the plaintiffs as part of a class action lawsuit filed in June against DETR seeking legal intervention in the ongoing unemployment crisis in the state.
Second District Court Judge Barry Breslow has appointed a special hearing master, lawyer Jason Guinasso, to draft the report in preparation for a hearing on Monday where the judge will decide whether to force the DETR to immediately pay all pending PUA requests or remedy processing delays. Guinasso, of Hutchison and Steffen Attorneys, worked with officials from DETR and the plaintiffs’ law firm, Thierman Buck, to discuss the claims process and identify potential issues that could be addressed by a court order in the form of a writ of mandamus.
Among the problems identified by the report were “the widespread existence of” glitches “in the benefit delivery system”, an unprepared unemployment system with massive volume of calls and the rapid implementation of new programs, “rampant” vendor errors, systematic fraud and a call center. who “have failed to consistently provide competent and compassionate services.”
DETR spokeswoman Rosa Mendez said the agency is not commenting on pending litigation.
In addition, Guinasso made four important recommendations to the Court on how best to resolve these issues.
Stuck with Alorica
The third-party call center responsible for processing and adjudicating PUA claims, Alorica, has been a source of anger for many claimants.
Guinasso recommends that the state begin a quality control review of 135 Alorica employees and provide additional training. But only if the state is stuck with the call center at the moment.
If Guinasso had a chance and the state was not under contract with Alorica until December 31, the state would immediately terminate its contract “due to the avalanche of complaints received regarding customer service and performance. from this call center. ”
“It is unacceptable that the sufferings of people who have lost their jobs due to circumstances beyond their control are subjected to the cruelty of a call center that does not seem to provide competent and compassionate service,” writes Guinasso in his report.
Appeal system and “escrow”
The report found that the claimants had no method of appeal if they challenged a claim decision made by DETR or its job security division.
This indicates that a call module would be put online on Saturday morning via EmployNV and that “applicants will have 30 days from the date the call module is online to file their calls.”
However, the report also recommended the appointment of a “receiver”, who “would be responsible for ensuring that the appeal process established by ESD is fully implemented and ensures due process for aggrieved claimants”.
Network of volunteers to deal with the backlog
DETR admits in the report that it was not ready to deal with the large volume of benefit claims in a short period of time while juggling with the implementation of new benefit programs under the CARES Act.
The report suggests forming a team of temporary volunteers – “made up of 1,000 capable volunteers who can be deployed within days of a court decision” – to help resolve the backlog and sort out legitimate and false claims. It has set itself the goal of eliminating the backlog in 45 days.
The volunteer team could come from unions, non-profit groups, civic organizations, faith-based organizations and supplemented by the National Guard, according to the report.
“There is a large pool of compassionate and talented people in Nevada, ready and willing to help their neighbors through this difficult period of economic uncertainty and hardship if given the opportunity and properly equipped with the training and authority to serve, ”the report says.
Guinasso recommends a hearing for claims suspected of fraud in order to set up a sort of “trap” to eliminate these claims.
A hearing and an “adjudicator hearing” could help resolve legitimate claims issues while frightening fraudsters from pursuing illegal deposits, the report said.
If the problem of fraud is as widespread as state officials say, wrote Guinasso, claims with multiple red flags or problems that cannot be resolved quickly should be dismissed immediately.
“But if they do (appear at the hearing), the hearing process will serve as an effective trap to help law enforcement capture thieves who aggravate the suffering of the displaced workforce.” and besieged Nevada, ”he wrote.
Contact Mike Shoro at [email protected] or at 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.