I-Team: Examining unemployment issues & transparency at DETR

I-Team

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation’s (DETR) deputy director resigned on Friday. It’s a story the I-Team first broke.

The resignation was not announced by the agency, and that’s been a theme with DETR: a lack of information shared.

The I-Team has more on how they’re getting the details to you, which is part of the challenge.

Viewers can’t get answers, so they turn to us. But even we have a tough time getting answers from the agency.

Now, we’ve turned to other sources, including insiders who do not want to be named and former employees who will talk.

“It’s so complex that I’m not surprised that they can’t talk to you because they don’t probably know what to say. But there are things, other things that could be done,” said Janet Pirozzi, former DETR employee.

Pirozzi worked at the Department for nearly a decade, leaving in 2007 as an information technology manager. She says problems there are nothing new.

“If they could fix those things, then they could maybe start streamlining stuff,” Pirozzi noted.

She points to an archaic phone system, one of the biggest issue 8 News Now viewers have reported.

“I have not been successful to get through to the phone lines at DETR,” said Peggy Lieser, who is waiting for benefits.

Pirozzi also points to some outsourced technology.

“The problem is we’re a little state. We don’t get top priority on anything,” she explained. “So, if they’re servicing New York and Nevada, who’s gonna get the most attention?”

Pirozzi and other I-Team sources point to funding. When the economy is doing well, DETR funding goes down.

As the I-Team reported in May, budget and job cuts date back to each legislative session since at least 2015.

In 2019, a DETR administrator tried sounding the alarm to Nevada lawmakers.

“We are concerned we will not be able to adequately respond to the next downturn,” Renee Olson said last year.

Still, records show 39 jobs were cut. Due to this, Olson noted, “With staffing reductions, we estimate that we will be able to handle no more than 3,100 calls per week.”

Now, Nevada’s unemployment rate is 15%.

That’s after unemployment in Las Vegas was 34% while non-essential businesses were shut down in mid-March to mid-May due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many Nevadans have experienced delays in receiving unemployment money, and some haven’t received it at all.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Pirozzi lamented.

Many residents are turning to a Facebook page where volunteers and some former DETR employees, including Pirozzi, offer advice. She also reached out to DETR in March, volunteering to help.

Pirozzi also sent a letter to the interim director in May, offering suggestions to fix the phone and email systems. She says she received only automated reponses.

Back in 2017, she sent a letter to then Gov. Brian Sandoval sounding the alarm about IT infrastructure.

“I asked him to do an audit of the IT department, which he did not do,’ Pirozzi revealed.

She received a response stating the issue would be monitored.

Now, three years later, the system is failing.

Former DETR Director Dr. Tiffany Tyler-Garner stepped down in April. Former Interim Director Heather Korbulic left after less than two months, and the former deputy director resigned Friday.

A briefing for reporters was canceled the same day while Nevadans want answers.

“I mean, it’s an impossible situation,” said Pirozzi.

Now, with press briefings for DETR, reporters are expected to send in their questions before it even starts. Typically, reporters should be able to ask questions during the briefing.

So, it appears information is limited and controlled here.

We also asked who is in charge of DETR right now and did not receive a response in time for deadline.

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