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DETR answering PUA claimant questions

Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation logo (DETR).
Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation logo (DETR).(KOLO)
Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 4:43 PM PDT
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A Facebook group called "Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Nevada Self-Employed" made up of 10,900 people say Nevada's Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation (DETR) would not answer their joint questions, according to group administrator Amber Stephenson.

She brought them to KOLO 8 Evening Anchor Noah Bond and he shared them with DETR spokeswoman Rosa Mendez Monday June 8, 2020.

Mendez said she would likely get them answered by Wednesday June 10, but did not accomplish this task at that time.

She did answer the questions after Bond ran a story titled "Unemployment PUA questions no one seems to be able to answer".

"I'm really thankful that they finally did give us answers. I feel like it was able to bring some very much unanswered questions to light," Stephenson.

She says her pleas for specific answers were ignored by government leaders for weeks including Gov. Sisolak's office.

"What was the most interest answer you received?" asked Bond.

"That there are only 35 adjudicators. Um. My mind is blown by that. I literally want to be sick to my stomach," Stephenson.

Meanwhile, people continue to suffer as DETR Director Heather Korbulic says she continues working on improve the service to Nevadans in need.

"We know a lot of people at this point will be losing their homes, their cars if they haven't already in the last week. We have an increase of indicators of suicidal ideation. This isn't just a group of impatient people waiting for a paycheck. This is their livelihood," Stephenson.

Korbulic addressed Stephenson's concern in her weekly Friday June 12 news conference.

"Call center vendor is actively recruiting hiring and training call center representatives and adjudicators to assist with the high volume of claims that we are currently working through," Korbulic said.

Getting specific answers is difficult and followup questions are not possible because questions must be emailed ahead of time to DETR and they are screened and chosen by Mendez before she reads them for Korbulic to answer.

As of June 12, 116,996 initial PUA application have been filed.

More than 47,582 individual claimants have been paid a combined total of $355,8 million.

Roughly 60 percent of those who have not been paid are deemed eligible.

Roughly 40 percent of those who have not been paid will not be eligible.

Korbulic says another problem is slowing the process for PUA recipients.

"Many of the PUA claims filed have been identified as potentially fraudulent. DETR has implemented various measured to proactively resolve and freeze payments to investigate known and suspected fraud," Korbulic said.

Stephenson and many of the people in her Facebook group say they don't believe Korbulic is being honest about the fraud she says is delaying payments. This illustrates the growing mistrust between PUA recipients and DETR officials.

The PUA questions assembled by the Facebook group mentioned earlier in this report and the responses from Mendez are below.

1) Large group 30 % of group who on 5-25 had an outstanding issue called “IP special investigation project case” that fell off 5-26 leaving their claim with “no outstanding issues” but still had a “unresolved: yes” in their claim summary. These claimants have not seen any movement since the 26th when this group should have been paid or at least given pay dates by now. As other claimants who had outstanding issues that required a review or adjudication have been paid or given payment date. This group of 30% has been at a standstill for over a week and a half and the call reps won’t help or hang up. Q- What is going on with this group if they have no outstanding claim issues or nothing that adjudication?

If a claim says “unresolved: yes” – there’s another item on the claim that requires staff review.

2) Why are claimants being issued claim pay dates, but the dates keep switching daily with no payments made. Started 6/4 ex. Claimants got pay date 6/4 and every day since it changes to 6/5,6/6 ?

These claims were being held as a result of the vendor’s system holding back high dollar payments – which were requiring a review to ensure accuracy – DETR has addressed this matter, paid on the eligible claims, and claimants should not see that issue going forward.

3) What is going on with PUA debit cards? It’s been 21 days since launch of PUA site and cards are supposed to take 7-14 days?

DETR has automated the process to send out debit cards. Anyone who requested a debit card has been mailed a card, and cards will be automatically sent out with new claims moving forward. Claimants can expect cards to be delivered within (7-10 days) of initial claims being filed.

4) When does the 21 days start? Initial claim? From the time there are outstanding issues?

The requirement to send verifying documentation of wages begins at the date of attestation of wages – which is generally when the initial claim is submitted. In general, documentation is required to be submitted within 21 days from date of initial claim.

5) What is the process of “PUA other program eligibility” what can claimants do to expedite that process?

This is a claim status that requires a DETR representative to check for one or more of the following: UI eligibility, requirements for FPUC, wages in another state, combined wage claim, or standalone UI eligibility in another state. Federal law prevents claimants who are eligible for UI from obtaining PUA benefits. DETR must determine if a claimant has the potential to file for an alternate base period claim that would allow them to get access to regular UI. We’ve discovered that about 40 percent of the claims with this status are eligible for UI. Claimants will get an electronic determination that they don’t meet PUA eligibility – they need to file UI claim.

6) How can claimants file backdated claims if they aren’t showing on their Employ.Nv account?

This scenario occurs as a result of the dates that claimants enter for the day they separated from employment. Individuals who want to file weekly claims further back than the date that the indicated they separated must call the PUA call center and ask to have their claims backdated. Claims can go back to the last Sunday of the week they separated from employment.

7) Are prepaid and cash app Direct Deposit cards able to be used? Some claimants have been told no and some yes? Also Chime card holders and Venmo as well?

Yes, but DETR recommends using a FDIC financial institution or credit union, or select the debit card option.

8) What is the payment payout schedule? What days are payments posted? Is it similar to UI or a different schedule?

Eligible weekly claims are processed every banking day. In general, eligible weeks are paid out within 48-72 hours (banking days only) of the date the weekly claim was filed.

9) Why are claimants who applied on 5/16 who have been reviewed not being paid but new claimants who just applied being paid in 72 hours or less?

Every claim is different. There may be issues under review.

10) When doesn’t the call center the reps tell claimants they don’t have access, they cannot help because they aren’t trained, or ability to change claims and that only DETR can make changes?

The PUA call center can only handle PUA claims. They cannot manage “unresolved: Yes” statuses those require a dedicated DETR team who is actively reviewing and resolving these claims.

11) Why are SNAP recipients bring cut off from their DWSS SNAP benefits based off of income not even paid out yet?

DETR does not have insight into the business processes of DWSS, we recommend anyone in the situation contact DWSS.

12) Why are call reps reading a script when claimants call in?

DETR must provide every caller with federally required legal disclosures and must be consistent in how they handle questions and claims.

13) Why are call reps reporting being in Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, California when the conference 5/29 stated they are all from a Nevada call center?

Alorica is a global customer service provider, a US-based company, with offices throughout the U.S. Alorica call center representatives work remotely in providing call center support specific to Nevada. The PUA call center staff are dedicated to the work of DETR’s contract.

14) Why were claimants told to use adjudication line 5/29 but on 6/5 told to again wait?

DETR informed the public that the adjudication center went live on June 1st. DETR has always recommended calls be directed to the main PUA call center line.

15) Why are claimants not being paid now and adjudication later per DETR press release 5/15?

Per federal law, DETR must verify identity and that claimants are not eligible for any UI benefits prior to payment. DETR is accepting self-attested wages and making payments based on that self-attestation. Adjudication of those wages happens on the back end, or after payments have begun. The rules for standard UI do not allow for claims to be paid prior to wage adjudication, however PUA rules allow for it and DETR is providing that flexibility as such.

16) Can claimants get an amendment to claimant guide of what “outstanding issues” mean? To free up phone lines.... I.E “working full time, DUA not due to disaster, end employment, refusal of telework, lack of work,” ? (having an idea of meaning and how to resolve/how long it takes to resolve)

Outstanding issue could represent varied reasons. Based on quoted example, if you are working full time, you are not eligible for benefits. You would be able to claim for the time in which you were not employed. Please check the newly-created PUA Glossary of Terms for definition of PUA terminology posted on detr.nv.gov/pua

17) What’s the best method to communicate with reps to address issues? Email, employ nv chat, waiting for a call?

DETR recommends calling the PUA Call Center – if you don’t get in the first time – please try again as per the IVR messaging.

18) How long until people are trained and have access to help? It’s been 5 days of calling and being hung up on now from the 82-adjudication line?

DETR has 35 trained adjudicators and we are working on hiring and training more.

19) Are numbers truly what’s been paid or what’s been released?

Yes.

20) Why have claimants with the max weekly benefit of $469 not being paid out? They have no outstanding issues and nothing to be adjudicated in many cases.

This may have been related to the Vendor’s system holding back high dollar payments for review. We have resolved this issue and eligible payments are being made.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020

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