Thousands of unemployed Arizonans will now have to take another step to collect benefits

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- For the thousands of Arizonans out of work, they’ll soon have to do more to collect their unemployment benefits. And it’s all because the Department of Economic Security has just been bombarded with millions of fraudulent claims.

Starting on Dec. 5, every person in Arizona on unemployment is going to have to prove their identity.

And the move is already impacting one Valley family. "The rug got pulled out from underneath us. It’s been a pretty negative experience ever since,” said Nicole Owsley.

From waiting on customers at her job as a hostess at Olive Garden, to just waiting. "It had been over nine months and I received no payments,” said Owsley.

When Owsley, a married mother of three, was furloughed from her job back in March, she immediately filed for unemployment. "They would say there’s no issue on my account,” said Owsley.

But for reasons she still doesn’t know, she was not getting paid, and when she tried calling DES, she got nowhere. “Long holds, but basically just being told to cross my fingers and wait. One told me if I believe in God to pray about it, one told me to file an appeal,” said Owsley.

But beginning on Dec. 5, every person on unemployment in the state will have to jump through one more hoop for their benefits, by proving their identity with the private company ID.ME.

The Department of Economic Security said the changes are only going to help streamline the process to get your money to you more quickly, because it’s going help them identify who’s eligible out of the million of fraudulent claims they get.

DES asking people to report fraudulent unemployment cards

“If we can get people identified and get them processed early on and make sure we are not dealing with fraud then we can get the benefits to the people who truly need them quicker,” said employment attorney Joshua Black. 

Black said the new ID process is an improvement to DES’s system not a hurdle. "They’re expecting that’s going to have a great impact in reducing this these types of errors,” said Black.

And 38 weeks after Owsley  first filed for benefits, she woke up to a $12,000 direct deposit from the state of back payment. “I owe almost $8,000 just alone on my house payment, $1,000 to APS. Then I haven’t received the last two weeks that I filed for, so it’s just putting my account back on hold again,” said Owsley.

DES declined an interview with Arizona’s Family but said the number of Arizona unemployment claims suspected of fraud has climbed to 3.8 million this year.


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