New system delays some unemployment benefits


Video by

New system delays some unemployment benefits

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Sep 4, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Some people who rely on unemployment benefits are angry and frustrated after running into problems trying to file claims.

"Since I have no more money coming from my original employer, I now have to rely on the unemployment until I finish my medical course," said James Houston, who was laid off about three months ago.

When Houston tries to use the state's online unemployment benefits system, a message pops up saying the service is unavailable. Houston said the system has been down for roughly a week. The timing couldn't be worse; he's trying to obtain his first unemployment payment.

"This can be very terrifying and very worrisome for people who must rely on this," said Houston.

The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation is phasing in a new computer benefits system. The state said the old system was up to 30-years-old and needed to be replaced. The agency shut down the old system on Aug. 26 to begin the switch to the new system in stages.

"Please be a little patient with us," said Jeffrey Frischmann, chief of unemployment insurance operations. "We have it up and running. They can file their claims through the telephone."

Frischmann said the agency notified people in advance of the change and those who filed claims or updated their status before the old system was shut down should get their benefits sometime this week. However, benefits may arrive a little later than usual this week because of the Labor Day holiday or if the claim was filed after the holiday.

Operators were able to take telephone claims beginning Tuesday afternoon and the automated phone system went online around 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Frischmann said.

The web-based system is taking longer than expected to bring online and is not available yet, Frischmann said. The agency hopes to get the online service running within 72 hours.

"We do feel their pain," said Frischmann. "We want to get them paid. We want to move this forward and we want to mitigate any ill effects it has on our claimant base."

Still, some recipients aren't happy.

"They should be able to do what they're supposed to do, what they're called upon to do, what we pay them - we the taxpayer - pay them to do," said Houston.

The federal government is covering the roughly $45 million price tag for the new system, which Frischmann said will be easier to use and include enhanced security features. The project is roughly four years in the making.

The state is encouraging people who rely on the web service to try the phone system instead. Frischmann said the lines have been busy as many people are calling.