PHOENIX — The failure of the Arizona Department of Economic Security to payout benefits is prompting some workers to make drastic decisions.
After calling Arizona home since 2005, Sean Brady packed up his Phoenix apartment and left at the end of April.
The mental health counselor had run out of savings and time.
"They were coming after me. Wanting to go to court for eviction stuff and I said 'I have to go home, I can't afford it,' trying to wait for the unemployment," Brady said.
He currently lives with his cousin in Chicago and says the underlying events leading up to his decision to move really haven't changed.
"Eight weeks in I've talked to DES... the hotline twice. That's the only time I've been able to get through," he said.
But there is another department within DES that he rarely never has a problem getting in touch with: collections.
After being let go from his position on March 18, Brady says he filed for unemployment the next week.
"I was at FedEx for about four hours trying to fax the documents in, and I couldn't get through on the fax line," he said. "The fact that we are in 2020 and I still have to go and fax documents to the state is Stone Age technology."
A couple of days later, he ended up getting his documentation to the DES office in Tucson.
"They said they would be able to attach it to my Phoenix case," he said.
But there was another delay.
"Every time I would talk to somebody, all they kept saying is 'you have a code 50 on your account, you have a code 50,' but nobody would be able to tell me what that is."
A few days later, he was able to find out the code meant he had a debt that would need to be paid back to DES from the last time he used the unemployment system.
"I had a 10-year-old debt from an overpayment for 2010, 2011 that I thought was paid off," he said.
With interest and fees, he owed more than $2000. DES waived about $200.
"It was either pay 1800 bucks or I'm not gonna get any unemployment whatsoever," Brady said.
His sister loaned him the cash to clear his account.
"I paid the debt, called the collections department--that's the only office you can get through," he said.
He says he continued to certify his claim for two weeks and still didn't receive payment. Something else was wrong.
"Now they say have a code 20. What's a code 20 on my account?" A different problem, handled by a different department.
He asked how to get in touch with them. "They'll call you or they'll email you," Brady says he was told.
He's heard nothing.
Instead, Sean has returned to Illinois and surviving on the generosity of his family.
"I see how efficient Illinois system is. I mean they have their issues here too but my cousin--who I'm staying with right now--he lost his job. He's not computer savvy and I was able to help him fill out his paperwork. He's receiving payments already," Brady said.
While he's applied for jobs in Arizona, he says he can't afford to move back. But he's hoping for some serious upgrades to the state's safety net for the sake of the who don't have the support system that he does.
"I'm blessed to have the family that I do, and I pray for the people that are really struggling," he said. "People deserve better. Arizona's got to do better. If they're going to be a big city, have all the influx of people wanting to live there. And tax revenue from people moving in from all different states. You got to take care of the people that are there."