PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- A spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Economic Security says $142 million in unemployment payments are being distributed late because of a "system issue." People who filed their weekly claim on Sunday were affected. 

"Our teams dedicated yesterday to analyzing the issue and resolving it as quickly as possible," said Brett Bezio, Deputy Press Secretary for DES. "We sincerely apologize for the delay and inconvenience." 

Bezio says DES is now in the process of distributing the $142 million in payments.

"The payments have been issued from our system this morning, so it depends on the claimants' financial institutions as to when benefits will be available," Bezio said. "Many have already received their payments."

But for those barely scraping by during these tough times, the payment delay forced them to consider tough choices. 

"I spent my last $25 on a headset for a job that I've just started," said Clyde Billings, who has been receiving unemployment since he lost his restaurant job about three months ago. "My spouse and I legitimately had a conversation about whether we should go return the headset to be able to get food today."

Alexander Vanbooven’s payment was also delayed this week. He says he has been forced to make tough financial decisions as he waits to return to his job as a human resources coordinator.

“It’s leaving us having to take loans with high interest rates, things that we’re not going to be able to recover from very quickly,” he said.

Sara Serbus, a nurse practitioner who’s been out of work for weeks, was also affected by the delay.

“I have $17 right now in my bank account,” she said. “Having [DES] be 100% unreliable is frustrating. It’s like me needing stitches and calling my doctor’s office and my doctor saying, ‘Well, that’s great that you need stitches and you’re bleeding everywhere, but I’ll see you in 72 hours.’”

It’s the latest in a series of issues that has plagued the unemployment system. Over the weekend, DES admitted it incorrectly flagged some claims as fraud and emptied out legitimate accounts.

“Whenever additional fraud detection and prevention measures are put into place, there will be a small portion of individuals eligible for benefits who may be impacted by these measures,” the agency wrote on social media. “These individuals will still be able to access benefits.”

Arizona’s Family has also reported on long call wait times and weeks-long delays in determining claims. Vanbooven says the worst part is the lack of information.

“That crutch that we’ve been depending on throughout this pandemic, it’s just not there and it’s not reliable,” he said.


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