Valley man loses nearly everything waiting on unemployment benefits

Tony McKnight
Posted at 6:51 PM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 21:57:37-04

PHOENIX — Laid off construction worker Tony McKnight says he has lost nearly everything while waiting for unemployment insurance from the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES).

"I need help. I need help," McKnight told ABC15. "I don't know what to do. My back is against the wall."

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As McKnight waits for unemployment benefits, he says the wall gets higher and higher.

"This system is broken. Like you have a better chance of winning the lotto before you get your money," he said.

Every day he makes calls to DES and every week he says he has certified his claim in hopes that payment would come. It hasn't. He says the delay has led to him losing much of what he has worked for.

McKnight first applied for benefits in May. He says eventually he found another job but couldn't afford transportation to get there.

"I couldn't pay my insurance. So, what the police do? They take my license plate, because they said DOT got the tag on it as no-insurance vehicle."

In addition to that issue, he says he couldn't afford gas to get to the construction sites nor the car payments.

He surrendered the car back to the lender. Not long after that, he was evicted from his home.

McKnight said his landlord couldn't afford to continue going without rent.

"He had to make a mortgage, too. He lives in an RV. That's how bad it hit him," McKnight said of his landlord.

For the past several weeks, he has been living in a room in a halfway house where he cleans and does odd jobs in lieu of paying rent.

"If it wasn't for places like that, I would be, like, in a shelter," he said. "I'm not doing that. I'm not going to subject myself to that."

He said he is grateful for the roof over his head, but he is anxious about much more he will have to lose before he gets his life back. He is also relying on his faith while he waits.

"I pray a lot. So that keeps me going. Without prayer is nothing. You know, you got to have, you have faith. You know, everybody is just living off faith right now," he said.