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Sisolak taps Buckley to lead ‘strike force’ assisting DETR

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday, Aug. 6 signed a bill from the 32nd Legislative Special Session related to unemployment insurance and announced a new rapid response effort to address the backlogs remaining within the unemployment insurance systems to be led by Barbara Buckley, majority leader of the Assembly from 2001-2007 and speaker from 2007-2010.

“I want you to know, I hear you. I am listening and I am taking action,” Sisolak said. “One individual, one family going without benefits they deserve and need to pay the bills, put food on the table, is one too many.”

Additionally, the governor announced he is appointing Elisa Cafferata as the new acting director of the Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation.

Senate Bill 3, signed by the governor Thursday, Aug. 6 will help provide more flexibility to DETR to help connect claimants to benefits faster and will extend the number of weeks Nevadans are eligible for additional benefits through this crisis, using only federal funds.

“I am proud that this piece of legislation, presented by members of my staff and DETR, received near unanimous support in both houses of the Legislature,” Sisolak said. “Today, I am signing this bill into law so we can immediately move forward with these changes.

“This piece of legislation is not a silver bullet or the final word, but there is no doubt that it will help Nevadans for both the short and long term going forward.”

Sisolak said that these moves do not reflect dissatisfaction with DETR’s performance but are merely a response to an overwhelmed agency that needs assistance.

“I have said it before and I will say it again: The state employees at the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation have done an incredible job under these unprecedented circumstances, working around the clock to connect eligible Nevadans to their benefits – and not just under regular UI, but also under the federal program benefits newly created and implemented during this COVID-19 pandemic, called pandemic unemployment assistance, or PUA,” Sisolak said. “Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, and yet we are paying roughly 90 percent of the eligible traditional unemployment insurance claims each week. The state has also paid more than 120,000 pandemic unemployment assistance claims.”

Sisolak noted that the state’s system is working with “an antiquated computer system, a historic unprecedented demand and fraudulent actors from inside and outside Nevada” attempting to file false claims.

“These are huge challenges, but those reasons don’t matter much to those hard-working Nevadans who earned these benefits and are entitled to these benefits,” the governor said. “We must do more to get DETR the resources and tools they need to get these benefits delivered.”

He lauded Buckley as a logical choice to lead what he called a “strike force” on unemployment insurance, citing her years in the Carson City where she was “a champion” for those “struggling with income or other financial or health care challenges and who need that extra assistance to help them move forward with dignity so they can support themselves and their families.”

Buckley and Cafferata will focus on immediate action in the next 60 to 90 days to help find solutions for the backlog of claims in both the traditional unemployment insurance system and the federal pandemic unemployment assistance program.

“All solutions are on the table, and the governor has made it clear that this is urgent and that all resources of state government will be engaged to help,” Buckley said. “There are thousands of Nevadans entitled to benefits who are desperate to receive them. I’m honored to be able to help.”

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