Latest DES woes meant missed unemployment checks, closed accounts for some Arizonans who are out of a job

Arizona's unemployment system has encountered another glitch, with $142 million delayed as a result of the latest incident involving the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

People speak out following unemployment check ordeal

Sunday came and went, and Patti Palmere received nothing.

"There’s a lot of people out there that can’t get by without it," said Palmere. "Other bills don’t get paid. Groceries don’t get bought. Rent needs to be paid at the first of the month, so that money is important."

Palmere has since received her unemployment check, but this latest incident is just one issue of many that have plagued Arizona's unemployment system.

"It’s people’s lives, that’s the bad part," said Kim Smith.

Smith, who moved to California in the midst of the pandemic, said DES previously approved her application before closing her account on Saturday, taking $4,900.

"All my past wages were in Arizona," said Smith. "It’s not fair to not take the time to ask people if they had fraud. They just pretty much took it on themselves, 'oh, you’re out of state. You’re automatically classified that way.'"

She said a DES employee told her it would take 10 days to fix the error and return her money.

"It’s going to be hard," said Smith. "It’s going to be really hard."

DES officials explain latest incident, offers response

According to DES officials, they’re starting to hand out payments again after a system update Sunday caused a delay. A spokesperson wrote they sincerely apologize for the delay and inconvenience.

As for the money taken away, DES officials say say in an attempt to combat potentially tens of thousands of fraud cases, the agency closed all accounts with out-of-state addresses on Friday, and added: "whenever additional fraud detection and prevention measures are put into place, there will be a small portion of individuals eligible for benefits who may be impacted by these measures."

Officials with the agency say if an account was incorrectly closed, people should contact them to reinstate it. They have not said how many Arizonans have been impacted by these problems.

The new DES director was unavailable for an interview. In May, FOX 10 reported that Michael Wisehart took over as DES' director after Tom Betlach stepped down following a 75-day appointment.

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