Unannounced change to PUA website

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 7:19 PM PDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2020 at 7:46 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - A new change to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) application website is causing more stress for self-employed workers in Nevada filing for unemployment benefits.

An estimated 60,000 people are waiting with no clear payment date in sight.

"It's just so dehumanizing. People just feel so dehumanized right now," said Facebook administrator for 13,000 people in the group called "Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Amber Stephenson.

She’s summing up the groups feelings after watching the following exchange between a reporter and Gov. Sisolak during a news conference in Carson City Wednesday, June 24.

“Is there anyway to speed that up, that process?” the unnamed reporter asked Gov. Sisolak.

"We are working through them as fast as we possibly can. They have to be done individually and it can take 30 to 60 minutes to do one claim, which means we've got folks in there that are doing twelve claims a day," Sisolak.

The following day Thursday, June 25 a high-powered attorney named Mark Thierman publicly talked about the lawsuit he filed days earlier against Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation (DETR).

"The plaintiffs are not asking for money (for a payout). What they're asking DETR to do is do its job, which by the way in this case is pay money (pay the unemployment benefits promised to PUA claimants)," Thierman said.

Stephenson says on the same day as this interview with KOLO 8 News Now's Noah Bond DETR call representative told her changes were taking place at their end.

"It began to start happening where people had no issues before were being flagged for issued of non-separation fraud or other different things that would not show up on our end when we logged in," Stephenson said.

The following Sunday, June 28 at midnight Stephenson says changes began to appear on PUA claimant application sites.

One change reads in part, “To continue receiving benefit payments, please file a new claim”.

“I was flooded with over 100 messages within like 45 minutes...and some people that are choosing to do that are having everything completely washed away,” Stephenson.

Bond emailed DETR spokeswoman Rosa Mendez about the changes. She responded by writing, "We are working with the vendor on reported issues and monitoring the site."

"It seems coincidental that all of a sudden all these issues that are very similar to the original IP issues and are stopping payments to people and are being labeled as fraud are occurring literally five or six days before a judge is going to make a decision on this lawsuit," Stephenson.

Judge Barry L. Breslow is ordering the state of Nevada to respond to Thierman's lawsuit July 7.

Mendez says DETR will release more details about changes to the PUA website Thursday, July 2 during its weekly news conference.

Copyright 2020 KOLO. All rights reserved.

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