December 14th, 2020
Rep. Grijalva Leads Arizona House Democratic Delegation in Demanding Answers on Delays in Unemployment Benefits to Arizonans
TUCSON— Today, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva led Arizona’s House Democratic delegation in a letter to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia demanding answers on why so many Arizonans have yet to receive the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds they are entitled to under the CARES Act in a timely manner. The lawmakers expressed concern that overblown claims of fraud and cumbersome identification requirements are monopolizing valuable staff time at state unemployment program offices and resulting in incredible delays for families desperately seeking their earned unemployment insurance benefits.
The letter comes at the heels of an Arizona Department of Employment Services’ announcement to implement mass identification rechecks without addressing major issues with severe delays in benefits. Numerous constituents have reported upwards of five month delays in receiving a response from DES, problems accessing the helpline, unclear and nonexistent timelines in receiving benefits, and a lack of any system to resolve disputes despite submitting all requested documentation. Constituents have also reported being flagged for reasons such as identical passwords. The DES press release on the ID.Me system claimed mass fraud while citing convoluted data not necessarily identifying actual fraudulent activity.
The lawmakers wrote:
“While Arizona recently implemented a new service with ID.me that will allow applicants to access their benefits and claims in a timely manner, Arizonans continue to encounter challenges while navigating this new system. The Arizona Republic reported that, as of November 6, 2020, over 2700 regular unemployment claims had waited more than three weeks to be paid.6 Unfortunately, these delays continue to cripple local economies. If workers are unable to buy goods and services, businesses cannot hire, retain, or pay their workers. This perpetuates uncertainty in an already floundering economy.
“We are writing to ask you for information so that our constituents may receive the benefits they are entitled to in a timely manner while still ensuring accuracy in the dispersal of those claims. By providing the data detailed above, we will know how state unemployment program offices and their staff have been held up due to the need for training on new and complicated processes.”
The lawmakers asked for answers by December 11, 2020.