Director of unemployment agency in Nevada, state hardest hit by economic downturn, leaves amid threats to safety
Nevada’s new director of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation is leaving the post after less than two months on the job.
Gov. Steve Sisolak said that Heather Korbulic had requested the transfer out of concern for her personal safety. She’ll move back to her previous role as executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, and an interim director will be determined within the next week, Sisolak said.
Korbulic had become the target of online angst over delays in the payment of unemployment benefits. More than 650,000 applications for benefits have been submitted for regular unemployment and a new federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program — levels at historic proportions — in the wake of business shutdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus.
While a majority of eligible claimants have been paid, tens of thousand of claims remain unpaid for a variety of reasons, in spite of DETR staff working thousands of hours of overtime and bringing on additional employees and contractors. Claimants report trouble staying on hold and reaching operators, and indecipherable issues holding up payment.
Online ire from people who say they have gone months without income has reached a fever pitch, with claimants flooding social media with pleas for help, stories of desperation and calls for Korbulic and Sisolak’s ousters.
In announcing Korbulic’s departure, Sisolak touted milestones for DETR during her seven-week tenure, including working through more than 131,000 backlogged claims and launching the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
“Heather's coordinated project management experience has benefited the department and the dedicated staff who work tirelessly to connect Nevadans to unemployment benefits,” Sisolak said. “I am so grateful to her for taking on this challenging project to make sure Nevadans were able to access their benefits.”
Korbulic took over after the previous director, Tiffany Tyler-Garner, left in April in the earlier stages of the state’s unemployment crisis.
Nevada’s April unemployment rate of 28.2 percent was the highest of any state in any month since modern record-keeping began in 1976.