State officials say they will start accepting applications on Saturday for a highly anticipated program that will offer unemployment benefits to independent contractors, self-employed people and gig workers.
Heather Korbulic, who became director of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation about two weeks ago, made the announcement Thursday in a video press conference. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA) was authorized by Congress in late March, but requires implementation of a separate technology module than the one behind the standard state unemployment system.
Claimants can file the claims at www.employnv.gov, but the system will not be functioning until Saturday. Questions about PUA can be directed to a new phone line that will go live Saturday: 1-800-603-9681.
Korbulic said a call center will be open both Saturday, May 16, and Sunday, May 17, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to handle what is expected to be a high volume of calls. Payments are expected to start flowing on or around May 23.
Gig workers, who were not eligible for unemployment benefits in the past because an employer had not been paying into the insurance system on their behalf, have been anxious for the implementation of the new program. Two people who are likely eligible for the program sued the agency earlier this week, seeking to compel the state to act more quickly.
Those who are likely eligible for the program include 1099 contract workers, those who did not work enough hours to earn standard unemployment benefits or were unemployed or going to start work but could not because of the pandemic. They must be able and available for work and have prior earnings in Nevada or a job offer to work in Nevada.
Filers need to submit a W-2 or 1099 form and documentation such as pay stubs, bank receipts or billing statements.
Benefit amounts range from $181 to $469 a week, and claims are backdated to the point of a person’s initial eligibility — as early as Jan. 27. Claimants may also be eligible for a $600-per-week benefit from the federal government on top of that amount.
Korbulic said her understanding is that people who are offered a job but refuse to go to work will not receive additional benefits, but that the state is assembling guidelines to help people understand the rules on that matter.
Staff from Alorica, a call center that has been handling general unemployment questions for the past few weeks, will stop that task effective at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 14, and become the primary adjudicators of PUA claims this week.
It’s not clear how many Nevadans will be eligible for the program, but DETR Chief Economist David Schmidt said last week that it’s probably at least 70,000.