AFSCME members are there for our communities

Along with the challenges to our health care system, COVID-19 has brought great challenges to the financial security of many Nevada families. In implementing ‘stay home’ policies to curb the spread of this virus, non-essential businesses in Nevada, which includes the hospitality, entertainment and convention industries, are on a 30-day hiatus, meaning hundreds of thousands of Nevadans are out of work for the foreseeable futureJust in the first week of this 30-day non-essential business closure, over 93,000 Nevadans have applied for unemployment insurance.  

This is where state employees at the unemployment insurance offices of the Department of Education and Training Rehabilitation are stepping up to help our communities.  

AFSCME Local 4041 member Maria Ortiz-Huey is a workforce services rep at Job Connect, but previously worked in the unemployment insurance office. As state offices began to close in mid-March, Maria got a call that she had been temporary assigned to the call center at the unemployment insurance office. 

"I knew some of the basics and was quickly trained on the rest, but I was ready to step up and help in this office because I know this is what our communities need right now,” said Maria. 

With hundreds of thousands of Nevadans suddenly finding themselves out of work for the next month, and maybe longer, calls to the unemployment insurance office have exploded. This has led to the office expanding workday hours and call center capacity by reassigning other DETR employees to this work.  

“We get so many calls each day, but we are helping people one-by-one and I'm particularly able to help Spanish speakersIt’s 12-hour days, but so many people have suddenly found themselves needing support right now, and we are here to help,” Maria said.  

State employees like Maria are on the front lines of strengthen our communities in times of crisis. That’s why AFSCME members are advocating for a stimulus package that includes investments directly to state governments that will provide extended unemployment insurance to workers who suddenly find themselves jobless.  

The work I'm coming into the call center to do is important for my community. I’m proud to be able to help so many people each day because it means people will be able to stay in their homes or feed their families,” said Maria.