Nevada launches system to accept gig workers' weekly claims

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada has launched a system to accept weekly claims from non-traditional workers for unemployment benefits authorized by the federal government.

The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation announced late Saturday morning that residents eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program could begin filing weekly claims.

The department made the announcement about 2 1/2 hours after saying it and its vendor had worked “tirelessly" overnight to launch the system as scheduled at 8 a.m. but that “technical complications" delayed the launch.

The first payments for gig workers, contract workers and self-employed workers are expected to be made beginning Wednesday, the department said.

“We know there is a great deal of interest and demand for weekly filing and expect our call center and claims portal to be very busy today,” said DETR Director Heather Korbulic. “Staff will continue to work including the upcoming holiday to ensure this functionality is available for Nevadans.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak later tweeted that his staff told him that 2,000 claimants filed 9,500 weekly certifications in 45 minutes.

The new system is independent of the traditional unemployment insurance system and Nevada was among the last states to get the expansion working.

Nevada's travel-oriented economy and its workforce have been battered by the impact of closures of casinos and other non-essential businesses in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

State officials said Friday that Nevada topped the nation with an April unemployment rate of 28.2%, the worst any state has seen since the national jobless rate was estimated at 25% in 1933 during the depths of the Great Depression.

Sisolak has begun allowing businesses to reopen and expand operations that had been restricted, and he has set a tentative June 4 date for reopening casinos.

The Democratic governor said in a statement Friday that Nevada has continued to see decreasing cases of the coronavirus and hospitalizations of COVID-19 when some restrictions began to be eased nearly two weeks ago.

In other developments:

— State officials reported that Nevada had 7,696 COVID-19 cases with 388 deaths as of Saturday.

Most people with the virus experience symptoms such as fever and cough for up to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority recover.

— A Reno man who is a veteran of both the U.S. Army and state government has been appointed by Sisolak as Nevada's COVID-19 response director.

Caleb Cage was appointed to the federally funded position after serving most recently as the incident commander for the state’s COVID-19 response.

He previously served as head of the State Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and as an administrator in the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Cage served five years in the Army as an artillery officer following college.