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Arizona man waits weeks to get through to unemployment office

Arizona Department of Economic Security
Posted at 8:05 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 23:52:12-04

ANTHEM, AZ — A lot of Arizonans have received some financial help to bridge the gap while waiting to go back to work.

But there are plenty more who say the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) has delayed approving their unemployment benefits.

And that finding out why is nearly impossible.

RELATED: Arizona unemployment numbers continue to rise

For four weeks Martin Bowe, of Anthem, has had the same routine while on work furlough.

"The first thing I do when I wake up is I check the website and then I call the number," he said referring to the website and phone number for DES.

"It says 'active issues' when I go into the portal. Meaning that there's something holding it up but I can't find out what that is."

Because the only way to get it figured out is to get DES on the phone. And since March 23 he says his calls have gone unanswered.

"It says they have an overwhelming call queue and they can't even get you into the call queue," he said.

That changed on Monday. Over the course of our interview, both ABC15 and Martin made repeated calls to DES. Neither of us could get through. The busy signals continued throughout the day.

So what's the deal with the phones at DES?

At a press conference on April 8, DES Director Tom Betlach explained that the system was overwhelmed but the agency had responded by increasing its employees "from roughly 20 individuals to over 150 individuals."

In an email on Monday, spokesman Brett Bezio told us the same thing.

He also mentioned an increase in call center hours and a contract with a private company to help with the calls.

"However, applications for Unemployment Insurance are being submitted at an unprecedented rate and our staff are working around the clock in order to process claims. Therefore, we appreciate applicants’ patience," the statement said.

But nearly two weeks later workers like Martin still not able to even ask a question.

His wife Tara joked that, “it’s like they just gave up and they just turned off the phones."

While the family still in good spirits, Martin says something has got to give. Soon.

"In the next two or three weeks if we don't see it resolved it's going to get exponentially worse financially," he said.