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Arizonans could wait longer for their benefits if considering unemployment appeal

KNXV Fullscreen Let Joe Know
Posted at 2:00 AM, Apr 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-05 10:05:25-04

If you're denied unemployment insurance in Arizona, you can appeal, get a hearing before a judge and hopefully your money.

But there are concerns about how long it takes to get a hearing and to get your money if you win.

Penny's story starts like many others.

"I worked at a salon spa. We were closed down [at] the end of March," she says.

While she did go back to work, Penny said she had missed weeks of work.

She applied for unemployment and got it until she didn't. Penny got a letter saying she was disqualified for some reason she didn't understand.

Penny says she missed about $4,000 worth of unemployment insurance and couldn't get any help.

"I've talked to 22 people and I've gotten 22 different answers," she says.

Feeling she deserved the money, Penny saw that she could appeal the disqualification and did.

She had a phone hearing before a judge and presented her evidence.

What Penny didn't know is how many others were doing the same thing.

Attorney Nina Targovnik says the appeals process is so backed up, she had one client waiting six months to get a hearing.

"Some of them have become homeless because of this. They're living with family, they're living with friends. It's a huge problem," she says.

Targovnik is an attorney with Community Legal Services.

She says when you do get a hearing, evidence and documents are important because employers can also present their side.

She says judges have typically been lenient with workers. But she says she's finding judges very strict when people quit their jobs for pandemic reasons.

"I haven't won one of those for a couple of months now," Targovnik says.

Penny did win her case and thought she would get her money soon.

But two months later, she still hasn't seen it despite her win.

"I ended up borrowing money from family to get me through thinking, 'I'll get the money I can pay you back.' Obviously, that hasn't happened," she says.

The state's Department of Economic Security didn't comment about long waits for appeal hearings.

They did say "in most instances, cases are processed within a day" of a win.

They say some cases still "require additional review by an adjudicator" and can be held until issues are "reviewed and resolved."

If you live in Phoenix or meet income requirements outside the city, Community Legal Services can help you.

Here's the full response from DES:

"DES remains committed to ensuring eligible claimants receive this critical assistance, as demonstrated by our rapid implementation of the federal unemployment program extensions following the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. In most instances, cases are processed within a day of an appeal being ruled in a claimant's favor. However, some claims require additional review by an adjudicator. While these cases are typically reviewed and processed within a few days, some issues are determined during the appeals process that can result in a claim being held until those issues can be reviewed and resolved. We understand the tremendous need for assistance, and we appreciate the patience of individuals with unique and nuanced cases who have gone through the appeals process to determine their eligibility. Individuals who are awaiting payment should continue to file their weekly claims."

Read more about the Arizona unemployment insurance appeals process by clicking here.

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