Arizonans express frustration with state's unemployment claim process amid pandemic

More than 115,000 Arizonans filed for unemployment insurance in the last two weeks, another symptom of the coronavirus's impact on the state.

It’s a number that essentially doubled the state's unemployment rate in just 14 days. 

Now, FOX 10 has learned the extra load on the system appears to be causing serious issues for payment. 

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed into place big changes to unemployment insurance in March.

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It increased who could receive unemployment but also it got rid of the one week waiting period to receive funds. However, more than a dozen people in the last 2 days who still have not received benefits to their accounts say it’s because of the one week waiting period — even though it shouldn’t exist anymore.

Israe Florez is one of those people. He enrolled for unemployment more than 14 days ago after losing his job because of COVID-19.

He and his wife are struggling to make ends meet and he was looking forward to his first benefit.

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He said he applied, he was accepted and received the card to start collecting weekly payments. But, after two weeks, still nothing.

His account says it’s waiting for his first week waiting period to expire even though the governor's executive order was supposed to remove that requirement.

"It felt like I was given some help. A life raft to come help me. I checked my account today. I have the card, I have the ability to get the unemployment [benefit] but I still see a zero balance and you know I’m still chugging along. But it’s taken a village. I have friends and family helping me left and right," Florez explained.

FOX 10 also spoke with many people who are struggling to even get to that point.

William Lesley has been trying to apply for unemployment online but because his situation is a little complicated, the system told him to give them a call.

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He has, more than 30 times. He showed FOX 10 a video he recorded of what happened every time he calls. He’s placed on hold for an hour.

"Like clockwork every single time, 1 hour 22 seconds. You heard it went silent then you hear fast beep and then the disconnect. And you’re like OK I’m back to number who knows what in line, back to end the of the line for the next hour. So all I can really do now is keep calling and hope the wait is less than an hour and they answer," Lesley said.

It’s impossible to know the true scope of the problem though because the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) has not responded to any of FOX 10's questions.

It’s been two days since we first started asking and we have not gotten a reply yet on what people should do but previously DES has told us they are hiring more people to try to address this increased demand.

If you’re unemployed and looking for benefits, visit:

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