Fixes for 7 Issues Causing Nevada Unemployment Frustration

I was sorry to hear that Heather Korbulic had to leave UI/DETR due to threats; no one deserves that. On the other hand, I can certainly understand desperate people still waiting for a resolution (i.e., payment!) months after filing, perhaps at the point of losing everything they had worked hard for, being frustrated to the point of bad behavior by a broken system. In general, people understood how overwhelming the situation was, that the system just wasn’t built for the sudden exponential volume, and many were pretty patient as a result. But, beyond the backlog, there are some pretty basic things that have exacerbated claimants’ sense of having salt rubbed into a wound, of having insult added to injury.

Given the void of personal communication, claimants are left with the information presented by the media, on the UI Web site, and in the recorded message (if they are lucky enough to actually connect when they call). Currently, the messages are scrambled, the content is not logically organized, and the wording seems designed to confuse and mislead. Both the Web site and recorded phone message include an overwhelming amount of information that leaves those on the receiving end even more unsure of next steps. Even someone (like myself) who has been successfully using the Internet for searches and research since it became publicly available can spend hours trying to find specific answers and still walk away empty-handed (not to mention extremely frustrated!). Making some fairly quick revisions to the communications, to make the instructions as clear and simple as possible, could potentially streamline the process to minimize the number of claims that fall into the “Pending Resolution” bucket and, as a result, claimant complaints.

PROBLEM #1: Incoming calls are poorly handled (e.g., false information provided in the recorded on-hold message, abrupt disconnection). Some of this can no doubt be explained by the fact that service-level commitments on measurable KPIs/critical success factors were not built into the outsourcing contract with the call center. (Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal, 8/6/20)

Example: I called 18 times over the course of one morning. The line was busy 16 times; the call connected two times. Both times that I was able to connect, a recorded message played. Early in the message, it suggests using the callback option in which a representative will return your call in the order in which it was received. The message then continues on, lasting a full four minutes, covering a wide variety of topics. At the end of that time, it simply indicates “All representatives are currently busy” and hangs up.

It is just a different kind of hell to experience the false hope that results from a ringing line and the promise of a callback option (after hours of busy signals) only to be abruptly disconnected after four minutes of messages. That is enough to send anyone over the edge!

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS (“QUICK-FIX” & LONGER-TERM):

  • Update the recorded message to reflect the actual experience claimants can expect (e.g., do not mention a callback option if that option does not exist).
  • If no callback option is available, announce at the start of the message that all representatives are busy and indicate: “Try calling again at another time or stay on the line to hear additional information that may answer your question.” This way, claimants won’t waste four minutes listening to the same recording every time they connect.
  • If a representative will be available to take the call, instead indicate: “Please stay on the line to speak to a representative.”
  • Actually implement a callback option.
  • Do not allow the call to connect if it is only going to hang up on the caller.
  • Prior to signing any future contract, ensure it includes detailed expectations/commitments and a schedule for regular performance-to-contract reviews. Also, consider factors other than lowest cost in the decision-making process.

PROBLEM #2: The information provided on the unemployment process itself is disorganized, cumbersome, and inaccurate/incomplete, leaving claimants uncertain where/when to begin and how to proceed. This often results in delays or even non-payment for weeks that should have been eligible.

Example: I tried multiple times to determine if I should file right away or wait until the time period covered by the vacation/PTO pay-out I received had expired, but I could find nothing that clearly explained this. I ended up waiting until four weeks after separation to file, since that is the amount of banked vacation/PTO pay I received. I hoped this would make the claim as seamless as possible, but it appears I lost a week of both federal and state unemployment pay (a significant amount!) as a result.

When I filed my weekly claim on June 28, the previous weeks had finally been processed, with a payment made for the weeks ending 6/13 and 6/20. The week ending 6/6 (the first week I had no pay) indicates “6/1/20 Non-pay due to initial hold payment.” I searched everywhere I could think of, including the handbook since the link was now fixed, trying to find an explanation for this and came up dry. I found information from another state that used similar wording to reflect that the first week after filing is not paid, but I could find nothing similar to explain how it works in Nevada.

When I filed my weekly claim on June 28, the previous weeks had finally been processed, with a payment made for the weeks ending 6/13 and 6/20. The week ending 6/6 (the first week I had no pay) indicates “6/1/20 Non-pay due to initial hold payment.” I searched everywhere I could think of, including the handbook since the link was now fixed, trying to find an explanation for this and came up dry. I found information from another state that used similar wording to reflect that the first week after filing is not paid, but I could find nothing similar to explain how it works in Nevada.

This causes more than a little frustration because, with clear communication, I could have filed at the appropriate time to receive what I was entitled to. It is particularly concerning to miss out on a week when the additional $600 federal unemployment payment is only in effect for a limited time and every dollar counts in these trying times.

In addition, status updates or new legislation, often described briefly by the media, are not even mentioned on the DETR/UI site, much less described in the level of detail that would be helpful to claimants. (This Fox5 report offers one example.)

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS (“QUICK-FIX” & LONGER-TERM):

  • Update the Web site and print materials to clearly communicate the process (e.g., when to file, waiting periods, etc.), step by step in plain language, so critical information is logically organized and easy to find.
  • Implement a branched recording that allows claimants to select why they are calling from specific common scenarios and then provide them relevant information, such as step-by-step instructions or what process to expect, in plain language. This might resolve some calls and allow actual representatives to deal with those looking to resolve pending cases or file new claims.
  • Ensure that DETR/UI site content is kept current, to reflect changes covered by the media and minimize the need for phone calls. Make it clear that the information is the latest and greatest. If process details are not yet hashed out, consider a prominent link to “Breaking News” that includes a brief statement indicating key information and when to expect more details. This helps build confidence and trust with claimants that the site contains accurate and up-to-date information.

PROBLEM #3: When claimants try to file, the wording of the questions leaves much room for interpretation and often seems outdated. It is often unclear how to “correctly” answer, causing confusion and “incorrect” answers that result in backlogs, increased workloads, and payment delays. It also seems, in some places, that wording/functionality was added to address a specific coronavirus-related scenario, without considering how it may or may not apply to other cases.

PROBLEM #4: Embedded requests for additional information are unclear, as are the methods for providing it.

Examples (Problems #3 & #4):

  • In the online Fact-Finding Interview triggered when a claimant has any additional amount paid upon separation, the following message displays: “Advisement: Please send your pay stubs to… <phone numbers>…” It seems “send” must refer to “fax,” but that is not specified and no alternative submission method (e.g., e-mail, USPS) is offered. This again adds to claimant frustration, given that the unemployed do not generally have access to fax capabilities, especially during a pandemic! Beyond that, I am sure some people would not even catch this, given the rare use or availability of faxing (or even landlines) in today’s world. I ended up e-mailing my stubs to the address mentioned on the four-minute phone recording and soon after got paid, but I am not sure if those two things are related.
  • It is also unclear WHICH pay stubs are being sought, since this Advisement is immediately following the question: “What would have been your next two regular pay dates?” Obviously, there would be no pay stubs for pay dates that did not (and will not) occur. I ended up sending my final regular pay stub and my stub that included my final week and vacation pay.
  • If a claimant selects PTO as the pay type, there is an additional question to answer that, in my case, did not apply. There was no way to proceed without a response, so I went back and selected vacation pay instead since that is how I had intended to use the time (even though it was technically referred to as PTO by my former employer).

I am a business professional, with 30 years of experience, an MBA, and prior exposure to the unemployment process, and I still was very unsure how to answer some of the questions “properly.” I can only imagine how difficult and frustrating it has been for first-time applicants, especially those not well-versed in technology or “government speak.”

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS (“QUICK-FIX” & LONGER-TERM):

  • Clearly specify the method(s) to use for submitting additional information, including options other than fax.
  • Update the wording of questions to communicate in plain language what information is being requested.
  • Review the cases that have required resolution by a representative to identify instances where clear wording or more/better response options could have eliminated the need for intervention and update the site accordingly.
  • Implement an automated email system to send updates to claimants when any status changes occur on their claim, using plain language to clearly explain the new status and next steps. A system could also be used to send a text with a Web link to the explanatory information or to make automated phone calls to deliver the information. Ideally, claimants could select how they would like to be notified.

PROBLEM #5: Several areas display conflicting and confusing information, with no useful explanation when navigating to status links.

Examples:

  • Even though I have now been paid for the weeks ending 6/13 and 6/25, my Home page still says “Issues Delaying Payment” (Issue=Deductible Income, Note=Pending Resolution). I have no idea what that means or whether there is something else I need to do since I am now receiving payments.
  • Under Claim History, clicking the “N” under Payment Issued for week ending 6/6/20 displays:

6/25/20 Deductible income

6/8/20 Deductible income

(unclear why 6/25 and 6/8 dates are shown under the 6/6 link, adding to the confusion)

6/1/20 Non-pay due to initial hold payment

(as noted in Problem #2, meaning is unclear; could not find an explanation)

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:

  • Make sure information presented is consistent and makes sense or, at a minimum, offer an explanation if existing messages/status indicators appear to conflict.
  • Ensure plain language is used to explain the actual meaning when someone clicks a linked status.
  • Ensure all status items are included and clearly described in the Glossary and provide a high-visibility link to this “Description of UI Terms & Messages.”

PROBLEM #6: Media coverage of the progress being made serves to make those claimants who have not received any assistance feel even more alienated as their situations grow ever more dire. 

POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Implementing the solutions outlined previously would provide more flexibility, better information, and streamlined filing that could in turn decrease the number of pending cases and provide some reassurance or guidance to specific answers.

PROBLEM #7: Notifications provided by mail are often missing critical information and/or a coherent explanation, leaving claimants thoroughly confused and frustrated. This surely leads to even higher call volumes and more exasperated callers.

Example: On August 5th, I received a form letter indicating that I was potentially eligible for additional benefits, specifically 13 weeks under PEUC and, once exhausted, up to 13 weeks under SEB. It indicates I need to take action to apply for these benefits and recommends doing so online given high call volumes. It also offers two URLs to visit for additional information.

The content and timing of this letter is confusing at best, considering I have only been receiving regular benefits for eight weeks and I appear to be eligible for those for 26 weeks. Why would I be notified about eligibility for extended benefits so far in advance? Why doesn’t the letter give any details on when or outline the timeline or process? Am I mistaken about the number of weeks of regularly eligibility and my regular benefits are somehow about to expire? It didn’t help that it arrived at the same time the media was reporting about additional benefits passed by the Legislature.

I spent hours trying to figure out the answers on the State’s site and could not come to a confident conclusion. The best I can tell is that I still have many weeks of regular eligibility and am hoping the links to apply for extended benefits will appear on my dashboard when I become eligible. They do not currently display under “SmartLinks,” where the site indicates they should.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Ensure that ALL communications clearly outline what they cover, why they were sent, how it applies to the recipient, what the recipient needs to do and when, where the recipient can find more information online (a direct URL to the relevant material). Indicate whether the feature can be accessed at any time or if it will only appear once the recipient is eligible.

I know the State of Nevada has a number of pressing matters to deal with, so I hope this may provide some insight into the nitty-gritty of what is causing some of the frustration for UI claimants and some straightforward ways to address it.

Updated August 16, 2020

6 comments for “Fixes for 7 Issues Causing Nevada Unemployment Frustration

  1. Oksana Sivtsov says:

    Thank you for taking your time and writing such a detailed description of the infuriating situation about the mess with DETR.
    I have a theory that they do not want to pay… May be there were never any funds in UI…. Who knows…
    It is infuriating, to say at least….
    I am in the same “Pending Resolution” stage since 09.04.2020. My faxes, emails and phone calls are not working, keep seeing ” Pending Resolution”….
    Every morning starts with my futile attempts to reach someone by phone.
    The stupidity of the recorded monologue is too much to bare…. They are not interested in assisting people, they do not want to pay.
    I have contacted State Representatives regarding this mess and, still no resolution.
    How is it possible for the system to be 30 years old? No capability to solve call center situation???
    I find these “stories” very strange, indeed.
    It looks like/sound like ( recorded phone response/monologue) is a cruel set up. This DETR system is a complete fiasco.
    I can not believe how broken the entire system is.
    Oh well, we shall persist! I hope the solution for everyone in need of temporary via UI is near.
    Thank you once again for your very helpful and very informative article.

    • M.L. Rousseau says:

      Appreciate the feedback. Do you have any idea why it is “Pending Resolution”? If so, you might also be able to mail documentation to resolve it to Nevada UI/DETR, 2800 E. St. Louis Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89104. Mine was resolved soon after I did that, but it might have just been a coincidence. Maybe worth a try though? Hang in there!

  2. Drake Booth says:

    Seriously thank you for writing this. The states unwillingness to amend laws and take other meaningful action to help its residents is absolutely sickening. For those of us unfortunate to be stuck with an overpayment there are little options to resolve and even few people with DETR willing to assist or take a rational thought process in approaching it’s most common and servers short comings. Other states have amended laws and flexed statutes to help its people survive. Nevada’s leaders couldn’t care less.

  3. Marlin says:

    Over the course of 18 weeks I’ve gotten through (1) one time. I was given the option of the callback. I just don’t understand why this is happening. So much time is wasted calling a number and wasting 4 minutes of anxiety each time. Do they realize that if they had the call back feature working properly how their call volume would go down. It perplexes me as to what planet they are living on. I was told on my (1) phone call that they are processing April claims and since mine is June…it will be another month or so. Apparently there are 300K people ahead of me. But they are hiring a lot of people. That doesn’t make me feel better that Adjudicators will be put through a crash course in proper fact finding between Employee/Employer? Now we hear about the funds approved in August of 3 weeks @ $300 will be released…however, for those of us that have not received anything…we obviously will not be part of this group thats already getting payments. I mean how many documents could you possibly need? SSN, DL, Address Proof, etc. Assign each document type a code. We login and see which documents are missing and we upload them. Problem solved. But to not tell us what document is needed or what the specific issue is…..doesn’t help the situation. Also ALL Call Center Phone Systems have a simple feature that will NOT allow the Call Center Agent to disconnect a call. Thus fixing the hangups. Furthermore even if they don’t want to turn that on. ALL CALL Center Phone Systems can show any calls hung up by the person on the phone. It’s cruel to hang up on someone calling to get benefits in order to feed their family and get hung up on.

  4. patti says:

    thank you for taking the time to write this. I am now dealing with the 4th time payments have stopped-pending resolution, this time they stopped after filing euc, waited 4 weeks, received one email sept 15th telling me issues were canceled, payments would be released, and another email from a Geneva Coleman stating basically the same amd that I shouldnt have any more problems. stupid me believed that, because 3 weeks later, (week ending oct 2(?))stopped again and now it is the 5th week showing no payment issued. mine dealing with pension. and you are so dead on right regarding their fact finding questions. they do not address multi employer pension plans, and you would think that with the amount of tradeshow workers here, that should have been handled long ago. it’s sad, and with the moratoriums on evictions lifted now I personally think the handling of this situation borders on criminal.
    when I called the governors office 2 weeks ago after filling out the case intake form on that site a couple of days earlier, I was almost speechless when realizing that being told it takes “5 weeks” for the governors office to receive a response from deter. I’m sorry, but thinking that people are supposed to accept an answer like that, or worse yet those that still wait for money, and are told to be patient? is unacceptable. I’m fairly sure those waiting, and stressing, because the bottom could fall out any day, are probably not responsible for traveling from China with the virus.
    people are suffering and apparently expected to “deal” with a situation that is not now nor ever was their fault.
    and as a person that rents, it is crazy that following the suggestion of our governor, was under the dillusion after receiving emails in sept stating all was cleared, told my property management everything would be caught up by the end of october, but, benefits stopped, and I look like a flake. not to mention the risk of eviction with 5 pets. not to mention there are no options of a place to move, or the money to move my things.
    its sad to realize that this country is so vulnerable, and that the lives of citizens are so inconsequential.

  5. MP says:

    Applied 10-16-2020, received determination & debit card 6 days later, then nothing for 7 weeks, called today, DETR said they wont look at my case before 3 months from now, best case. Best case is they may look at my case 5 months after I applied??? Put another way, when approved, & all the red is cut, I can expect a lump sum deposit for at least 20 weeks(5months x 4wks) nice thought but they need to get the lead out, I;d rather have the help now, while I’m still afloat, not 3 months or more from now, after I sink; the help will be… too late.

    Yes very confusing to me, a one time HR manager mid sized company, I was asked for 2019 pay stubs for a job I just started, I called twice, once I got that thru to the Detr worker, they hung up on me both times. So one day my pending read “Monetary Determination” or something, the following it read “Discharched Misconduct” and my former employer IS NOT contesting my case…….

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