LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A backlog of 32,000 unemployment claims remains as Nevada’s unemployment agency works to resolve a mountain of work, officials told lawmakers on Friday.

Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) Director Chris Sewell said with the resources in place now, the backlog would ordinarily take four years to clear. But Sewell plans to hire outside help to accomplish it in a year.

Members of the Nevada Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor had more ideas to free up resources for DETR during Friday’s session in Carson City.

DETR Director Chris Sewell speaks Friday during a committee meeting in Carson City.

The ID requirements put into place during the pandemic prevented $2.5 billion in unemployment fraud, DETR said.

When ID.Me went into place, it introduced more steps into an already laborious process of filing for unemployment, and forced a lot of people to trust a system they had never used before — an unsettling leap to take when all you were hearing about was fraud. The checks provided by ID.Me worked, DETR said.

To date, $644 million in fraud has been found for all programs, and $114 million has been recovered, Sewell told 8 News Now.

Sewell outlined steps he was taking to clear the backlog. A contractor is coming on board in March, he said. But fast-tracking the cases is more difficult after COVID emergency’s expiration and a return to normal government operations. A provision that allowed DETR to use staff from other state agencies has expired — and those agencies are busy again, DETR pointed out.

But DETR might be able to get help in other ways that lawmakers suggested, and members of the committee might find ways to remove restrictions on using retired workers who want to contribute.

Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager asks a question Friday during a meeting of the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor.

Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas), who serves on the committee, took the opportunity to get answers to some of the questions he says are still being asked in the community. Among those questions:

  • “I’m still waiting to hear back from my initial claim.”
  • “I have appealed and I’m told it will be a long time.”
  • “I’ve been told I inappropriately got benefits and I didn’t qualify and I have to pay them back.”

The first two questions are related to the backlog, but DETR Deputy Director Troy Jordan discussed the last question in detail. Yeager asked if there was a waiver of some kind that would allow DETR to erase the debt, and Jordan walked through the answer:

Jordan said a waiver process does exist, and three factors are considered: the person’s ability to pay back the money, whether they have “detrimentally relied” on the money (such as a large purchase that requires them to make additional payments), and whether it is “against equity and good conscience” to ask them to pay back the overpayment.

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