TEMPE. Ariz. (3 On Your Side) - A few months ago, Hallie Robinson was working at a job she loved. Now, the mom of three is out of work and relying on unemployment insurance to pay the bills.
"It's very stressful," she told 3 On Your Side.
Things got worse Monday. Robinson was supposed to receive $840. She had earmarked the money for rent.
"I go to the Bank of America app, and it just says $240," she recalled. "I'm like, 'What happened?'"
Robinson's federal pandemic unemployment compensation -- $600 -- was missing from the payment. She tried to contact Arizona's Department of Economic Security, which administers the unemployment program, but couldn't get through to speak with anyone at the agency.
She, like dozens of others, turned to Arizona's Family. When we reached out to DES, Brett Bezio, a spokesperson for the agency, apologized for the issue. On Monday, Bezio said the payment glitch affected 130,000 Arizonans and said the money would be deposited by Friday, May 15. Although Bezio did not respond to questions Thursday about whether DES was on track to complete those payments, several people told 3 On Your Side they have received the money.
The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) is apologizing to people who filed for their weekly pandemic unemployment benefits, but did not receive their $600 federal payment.
Robinson says she woke up to an extra $600 in her account Thursday morning.
"I know some people still have not gotten theirs," she told 3 On Your Side Thursday afternoon. "I feel very lucky and blessed that I did because I was able to go ahead and pay rent yesterday."
This is just one of the issues our viewers have reported to us. Since the middle of March, when the coronavirus pandemic forced closures, more than half a million Arizonans have filed unemployment claims, often facing long call wait times and delays for benefits.
Alyssa Garcia, of Phoenix, was laid off in March. She received two unemployment payments, but then the relief stopped. She says DES told her there was a paperwork problem.
"There is no communication," she said. "I talked to one live person, but they told me to fax the paper, to go and fax it again, and that's the last that I've heard from them."
"I was calling every morning," she added. "It's hurting right now."
At a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Doug Ducey briefly acknowledged the challenges.
"There has been a crush of applications overwhelming the system, but dollars are moving out to individuals that need it," the governor said.
The claims pool just expanded. This week, DES launched its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for gig workers and self-employed people who don't qualify for regular unemployment insurance. The online system took weeks to build, and on Tuesday, the planned launch was delayed for hours. It finally went live around 1 a.m. Wednesday.
After the launch, DES tweeted that users who had issues loading the portal should clear their cache. Several people replied to the thread on social media with screenshots of "page not found" errors.
According to DES, 39,000 PUA claims have been filed.
3 On Your Side has repeatedly requested interviews with Tom Betlach, the director of DES. His office has refused every time.