Nevada unemployment officials said Friday that they’re still working to enact federal benefit extensions approved almost two months ago, although their request for more patience through ongoing delays is hard to swallow for some claimants who are watching their bank accounts run dry.
The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) announced in a news release that it was working with its vendor to implement an 11-week extension in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits for gig workers and testing out new programming to enact an 11-week extension of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for regular unemployment claimants.
For another extension — seven extra weeks of PUA because of Nevada’s high unemployment rate — the state needs to adopt emergency regulations.
“We know how important these extended benefits are to Nevadans and ensuring they receive them is our number one priority,” said DETR Director Elisa Cafferata. “We are working as fast as we can to implement all federal benefit programs but need time to realize this in both systems and ask for the public’s patience as we move forward in providing critical assistance to Nevadans.”
DETR officials said even before Congress and the president approved the COVID relief bill, called the Continued Assistance Act, in late December that there would be a gap in payments because the legislation was finalized so late that certain programs had already expired. But it’s taken longer to complete the process and get benefits restarted than the early February target state officials had set.
The benefit stoppage has been trying for people such as Las Vegas resident Michael Guilbault, who is still furloughed from his job in Nevada’s hard-hit live entertainment production industry. Unemployment had been nearly a full income replacement when benefits were more generous early in the pandemic, and had still helped him stay current on bills even when the benefit fell sharply over the summer. But he hasn’t seen payment since Dec. 22.
He’s relying on help from his mother, who’s on a fixed income, and is trying to push through technical glitches to submit an application for rental assistance. Guilbault, 40, is also concerned that his credit might suffer because of the pandemic and make it harder for him to get housing in the future.
“It feels like the state's pushing you into poverty and they're not thinking about the real consequences of not being able to pay your bills on time, and how that affects you 10 years down the road,” he told The Nevada Independent.
As for the calls for patience? Guilbault said he wants state officials to understand the pressure he’s feeling from creditors who aren’t showing much sympathy during the indefinite gap in benefits.
“I don't think they realize how bad some people have it right now,” he said. “It's like, ‘Well, can I start referring my bill collectors to you guys directly?’ Because they're not taking it any easier on me.”