Unemployed mom has problem collecting benefits from DES

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PHOENIX -- A Valley woman says she's eligible to collect unemployment benefits but was turned down by the state. So, she contacted 3 On Your Side for help.
  
I'm getting so many complaints about the Department of Economic Security. All of the complaints are the same. People file for unemployment, but their checks either don't come or they're slow getting to them. For one Phoenix mom, it gets even worse.

"I'm very frustrated," Lauren Merik said. "I've tried to do everything I can."

Merik is desperate. She's a single mom trying to provide for her three daughters, one of them a newborn.

But things took a turn for the worse in June when she was laid off and even though she has applied for unemployment benefits through DES, she hasn't received one nickel from the agency.

"I'm just struggling week after week," she said.

Merik's first problem started when DES sent her a letter saying she was ineligible for benefits because she was pregnant at the time and apparently unable to look for a job as required.

Merik says that's crazy.

"Just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean I can't look for work," she said.

DES sent her another letter saying she actually was eligible for benefits but, to this day, Merik hasn't received any financial assistance and she says she can't get anyone to listen.
  
Every time I call it's like I'm interrupting their lunch or breakfast," she said. "I'm just a number."

Frustrated and facing eviction, Merik contacted 3 On Your Side and I asked DES to look into Merik's issue.

As a result, Merik will start getting $211 every week from DES and she says the agency told her they will pay her for the two months she went without assistance when she should have been receiving it.

Merik says she wishes she would have come to 3 On Your Side a long time ago.

DES is under a lot of pressure to help folks. Almost two years ago, 30,000 people filed for unemployment benefits.
Now, that number is up to 140,000 people.

Unfortunately, some people like Merik fall through the cracks, but DES has tripled the number of its employees and has used federal money to update its computer equipment.