Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Unemployment Benefits Disaster in Arizona

A very long time blog reader, today I started my own. I was inspired by a posting by Nate Fleischer on Nate's Big Blog entitled "Unemployment in Arizona." Nate and I are still waiting to receive payment for Arizona unemployment insurance to which we are entitled. Nate applied in August and I applied in October. The following are my comments to Nate's blog which I have quoted below.

Nate, although your experience doesn't give me much comfort, I am relieved to know that I'm not alone. I lost my job in mid-October and immediately applied for insurance benefits. I was encouraged by the quick response to my application. I was asked to complete a couple of forms which I submitted within the required time period and I received my "debit card" which I foolishly interpreted as a sign that payment was eminent. Nothing. Each week I have checked the payment status..."you were not issued payment because of an unresolved issue on your will be mailed a form..." The rest of the story mirror's yours in every respect including the observations in your last paragraph.

If there are two of us with this experience there are certainly hundreds of others. I have been struggling with a way to “get the word out” in hopes that numbers might draw enough attention to the problem and lead to a solution (I’ve been marching since the Vietnam era). I have considerable financial experience in the private and public sector, none of which has help me with DES; however, I do have a complete home office, the support of my attorney husband and due to the job market, time available. I’m an avid internet user, but never felt the need to establish my own blog. You have inspired me and my new Google blog begins: View from the Dark Side of the Moon.

Nate, any suggestions?


Unemployment in Arizona
Unemployment in the State of Arizona rose 2.2% in 2008, bringing the state’s preliminary 2008 (November) unemployment rate to a whopping 6.3%. As a matter of fact, Arizona’s jobless rate rivals that of California, and the State’s percentage of job-losses in 2008 were significantly higher than those of The Golden State. I guess we can be sure that all of those penalty-revenue traffic laws aren’t helping to save jobs in Arizona; they just add insult to injury, heaping additional fines and taxes upon an already over-burdened and unemployed population.I tried to apply for unemployment in Arizona. Since August of 2008 I have wrestled with the mega-bureaucracy from Phoenix with no success. I have called, written, faxed, even messaged my state representatives, all with not only zero success, but no response. In order to receive unemployment benefits, an Arizona citizen completes an unemployment application (which, as in my case, may be done online). The citizen then waits for the State to process their application and mail additional documentation and requirements via standard US Post. While I found this first part fairly quick and painless, the story changed almost immediately. What followed was a series of un-sendable faxes (busy signals and “down” lines), unanswered calls (“We’re experiencing unusually high call volume and unable to take your call...”) and other standard, government-issue run-arounds.So now it has been five months since I was laid off, no luck finding gainful employment here, and I am still working to get assistance from the State. Today I visited the local unemployment office in which I found a posted sign which read, “Unemployment office has been moved to: Call Center.” That’s a joke! They’re staffing an actual brick-and-mortar office with people who can do nothing but refer to me to the call center; that’s the same call center that’s not answering their phones because of a call-volume that’s too high! I wonder, since our representatives have never had any trouble allowing, nay pushing for, our jobs to be “off-shored,” why the State of Arizona hasn’t farmed out their call center business to any number of available specialty companies in India and elsewhere?For the record, I have never before been, “on the public dole,” nor have I ever received any type of government assistance, in fact I still haven’t to this day. I pay my taxes, lots of them, and have never asked for anything; now that I need help, it is simply not available. I understand that the economy is bad, I get that the State is overwhelmed, and I know that there are lots of people who are much worse-off than I. I can only hope that the people who really need help are getting it, somehow, but without the resources to “work the system,” how can they? I’m a smart cookie. I have a home office, computers, a fax, phone, etc. If I can’t get help, what of the suddenly unemployed single parent with mounting bills, turn-off utilities, and hungry mouths to feed?
Posted by Nate Fleischer


  1. I am honored that you would quote from my humble blog! Honestly, I don't know where to go from here, although I did receive a voicemail today from Sen. Payton's office (it was late in the day and I was not home). I'm keeping my fingers crossed that at least one of our elected officials is willing and able to help (I have contacted ALL of Tucson's representatives in the state legislature, but this is the FIRST response I have received!)

    Surely there is strength in numbers, if for nothing more than moral support. It does help me to know that I am not alone out there!

  2. Wow, I figured this was going to be an issue but I didn't know just hod bad it was going to be. I was laid off from my IT Engineering position in November and given a small severance. I figured that someone with a solid work history, great qualifications and several letters of recommendation would have a new position ion no time, even if it wasn't the perfect position at least contract work is there. Right?
    Turns out I was dead wrong. I am overqualified for most of the jobs I have found or not the "perfect" match for others. While I don't have any objections to taking whatever work I can find - and even seeing through the end of the contract - employers don't see things the same way and they have quite a pool to pick from these days. So now the small severance I was paid was spread out over 6 weeks and even though it was only a fraction of my salary it did manage to keep my bills paid. As that money ran out I filed for unemployment benefits for the first time in my life. Now I am stuck in the same holding pattern. I was told by DES that they had a policy to clear up any unresolved issues within 21 days but they were obviously not meeting that requirement any more. Is there any actual laws pertaining to this?
    I had to borrow money from friends last month to pay rent and utilities. I only drive my car to interviews, quit smoking (something good had to come of this) and live on water and ramen noodles I bought for 10 cents a package. I have absolutely ZERO money left and bills are due again. I managed to borrow enough money to keep my phone turned on for a few more weeks so I can continue calling about jobs but in a few days I will be officially late with rent, the utilities are already late and my car insurance will be canceled so I can't drive to interviews.

    Is there no legal recourse to this issue? I thought (foolishly) that unemployment insurance was something that would be important to keep a bad economic situation from turning into a "Death Spiral" (thank you John Stuart). Does anyone have any glimmer of light they can shine on this issue?