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A woman stands in front of the closed Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation offices in Las Vegas on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Nevada has been approved for another round of funding for Lost Wages Assistance, a short-term, $300-per-week add-on benefit for people receiving unemployment that is expected to start flowing this month.

The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) said this week that the state has been awarded more than $199 million. That’s on top of the original $224 million grant, which means that some beneficiaries could receive up to six weeks of the add-on.

“DETR team is updating its computer programming in both the UI and PUA systems,” agency spokeswoman Rosa Mendez told The Nevada Independent. “Currently, we are not able to provide a definite date when funds will be distributed, but the agency is on track to be able to make the payments mid- to late-October.”

Lost Wages Assistance is paid from a fixed grant amount from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Recipients don’t need to apply for benefit separately, but are eligible if they are unemployed because of COVID-19 and are already receiving at least $100 per week in unemployment benefits.

“We are planning to pay people in PUA and in UI a week at a time to be sure we stay within our grant amount,” Mendez said. “Because the grant is a fixed amount, we will pay as many people as many weeks as we can.”

The add-on is not something that Minden resident Rick Palio is getting too excited about, though, as details of the program and the status of Nevada’s involvement have changed so much since President Donald Trump first announced the program in August. His main focus is trying to get money flowing again after he exhausted the first 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits. 

He’s filing claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), a federally funded extension program, but it’s been five weeks and he hasn’t seen money. He’s getting by with some Social Security income, wages from his wife’s part-time work and credit cards. 

Palio, who is 75, was laid off in March from his job as a facilities manager at a company that makes jet engine parts and suffered from a dramatic slowdown in the aviation industry. He thinks age discrimination is the reason he’s been able to land interviews but not jobs, even though he’s healthy and still wants to be working. 

“If I had kids and family — this is brutal,” he said in an interview. “I feel for younger workers.”

PUA Appeals

DETR said it issued denial notifications to several thousand applicants within the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program on Friday. Claimants who believe they were wrongly denied are asked to appeal the decision.

Las Vegas musician Mike Powers is among those in the batch of denials. While he has yet to see any money since applying in May, he has had some more bad news — notification on Monday that his eligibility had been reduced from $276 to $181 a week, and then today, another message that he was disqualified on the basis that he had an open and paying PUA claim in California. He has never lived in California.

The agency said Monday that of the 11,000 PUA appeals that have been filed and reviewed since Aug. 31, officials determined that 8,194 could be resolved apart from a full appeals process because a correction could address the problem or a decision had not been officially made.

Another 2,019 appeals were deemed to be not valid or were withdrawn.

There are 787 appeals that are pending and can be scheduled once a computer module is finished — something that is expected to happen by the end of the month.

An ongoing lawsuit from PUA claimants who experienced delays in getting their money or still have not been paid is proceeding at the Nevada Supreme Court. Attorney Mark Thierman said an attempt to resolve the dispute through mediation failed, prompting him to file a request for immediate relief with the court on Friday.

“Back to battle we go,” he said.

Palio, who said phone access to DETR continues to be “broken as ever,” wishes there were consequences for the long delays.

“I’d like to see something happen to the state where they get penalized in some way shape or form,” he said.

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