Arizona woman drains her 401K as unemployment agency keeps her account under review

Ten months after the rush of unemployment claims froze Arizona's unemployment agency once the pandemic hit, stories continue to pour in from people who've been waiting months upon months for payments.

Some have gotten desperate to pay bills while they wait for payments during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Arizona woman, Debra Robberson, emptied her 401K after she lost her job at a resort near Pine Top. She was forced to because the unemployment lifeline she thought would be there for her had vanished.

She applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) on May 24, 2020, and every week, Robberson looks up her unemployment account on the Department of Economic Security's (DES) website.

"They tell me 'There’s no issues, there’s no this, there’s no that, you just have to wait,'" Robberson says. So she has.

When looking at her account activity, it shows every payment is "in progress" for every week dating back to May and she hasn't received a dime.

"I’ve worked my whole life. I raised my children on my own. I need to work. I don’t want to get emotional but it’s going to be hard not to. They're not helping me and I really do need the help with what they owe me," she said, teary-eyed.

She’s not alone.

DES says 1,800 PUA claimants are waiting more than 21 days for benefits. An agency spokesperson said the oldest case was from Oct. 10, 2020.

RELATED: Arizona lawmakers reject auditing state's unemployment system as residents wait for much-needed benefits

Robberson has been waiting much longer, and as the bills piled up, she had to close out her 401K.

"I didn’t want to have to do that because now I don’t have it. I mean I saved up for all these years for that now I’m down to nothing. So, it’s pretty scary," she said.

Now she says she’s run out of that and can’t pay rent this month.

When DES was asked why her case is so old, a spokesperson said claims flagged for potential fraud take longer to review. But her account says "in progress" and nowhere does it say it’s under review for fraud.

RELATED: Some on unemployment feel 'punished' by Arizona with incorrectly closed accounts

"I worked my whole life and I just don’t understand why they don’t help anybody," Robberson says.

In a statement, DES stressed fraud is the issue for her account being under review, saying, "These claims are a large part of the PUA backlog we are working through. As we continue to process the claims held for suspected fraud, claims filed earlier in the year may enter the queue for adjudication."

DES says it elevated Robberson's case for review.

For more unemployment reports, click here.