Valley man has been waiting weeks for unemployment benefits

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PHOENIX -- If you've been laid off and you're waiting for unemployment benefits, you're not alone. The system is overloaded.

People are out of a job and they're saying, "I need help."

The first step, of course, is to file for unemployment benefits with the state. But that's the problem. So many people are filing that the state just can't keep up with all the requests and it's clogging up the system.

"It's just really troubling because I'm really stressed out," Thomas Driver said.

Driver, like many people right now, has a good reason to be stressed out.

"I was let go from my job in December, end of December, and I've been trying to get a job since then, and it's been really hard," he said. "I haven't been able to get anything."

And although Driver filed for unemployment benefits from the Department of Economic Security, weeks have gone by and he still hasn't received anything from the agency -- not even a response.

"I just feel helpless," Driver said. "Every time I call them, nobody's there. It just seems like they're not really trying to get a hold of anybody."

Driver isn't the only one. 3 On Your Side has received complaint after complaint from unemployed people who are not getting benefits.

So 3 On Your Side went to Pat Harrington with DES. We wanted answers.

"The line for unemployment insurance is very, very long," Harrington said. "That's the sum total of our problem."

Harrington said unemployment claims have almost tripled since last year and although they've made corrective measures to keep up, it just isn't enough.

"We have increased our staff," Harrington said. "They are doing more than they ever have done and still we are unable to keep up."

Harrington said there are a few things you can do to help get your unemployment benefits faster.

First, apply right away. Don't wait.

Second, fill out paperwork completely.

Next, file weekly claims even if you haven't been approved.

And finally, make sure you are actively looking for a job and documenting that on your application.

Harrington said this will help the process go smoother, but getting approved can take anywhere from three to 10 weeks.

"We do care and we do understand how important this is to them," Harrington said.

By the way, Arizona is one of the hardest hit states when it comes to unemployment, which is why there is some good news. Usually, benefits are exhausted and used up after 26 weeks, but it has been extended to 59 weeks to help folks out in the long run.