My name is Christine Springer. I'm a paralegal and the owner/founder of Desert Edge Legal. I am responsible for the content in this post. Please note that I am not an attorney and I cannot give you legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss your individual situation.
I'll get right to the point: the Arizona Department of Economic Security has screwed over thousands of Arizonans by failing to properly administer unemployment programs under the CARES Act.
To be fair, I'm not criticizing rank and file DES employees. I think they are doing the best they can do. Considering the complete lack of leadership at the agency, a 1980's computer system that runs on COBOL, the apathy of the Arizona legislature which failed to fund upgrades to the computer system and a low pay rate, it's a wonder any of them bother to show up for work.
Arizona has more than a few problems that have been exposed with the pandemic, but in my view, the main one is the complete lack of compassion, care and concern for the people who live in the state.
Arizona has a history of great conservative politicians. Conservativism is a principle that says the government should not be involved in the daily lives of Americans.
However, the politics in Arizona (and elsewhere) have completely contorted the meaning of conservativism.
Today in Arizona, it means "screw people" by not providing any sort of safety net or treating people with basic human decency.
This is especially brutal considering that the government mandated that we stay at home and close our businesses.
The reason it's taken me so long to pick up the pen (or keyboard) during this pandemic is because I don't want to add my energy to a system that is built to screw people over. What you resist persists...and so I've really been doing a lot of inner work to reach a place of acceptance and I just cannot accept what is happening right now.
So I'm speaking up.
The unemployment debacle in Arizona is infuriating.
Businesses used to create jobs and pay decent salaries...at least before the 2010 financial crisis. These days, many of them are leeches, hoarding cash and paying very low salaries and little to no benefits, all while paying little to no taxes. It's patently unfair. So why are big corporations getting showered with cash and tax breaks while average Americans go without?
Arizona DES was completely unprepared to administer unemployment programs under the CARES Act. It took them six weeks to begin paying anyone because they had to hire an outside contractor to build the PUA portal.
Granted, it's probably tough to create a system designed to help people when there is a philosophical opposition to helping people.
It must have been painful for DES and Governor Ducey to have to pay people while they sit at home during a pandemic. I wonder if there was a squeaking noise when they pried open the coffers and started paying people.
But then again, this may explain DES's "fraud investigations" that began the week of June 20, 2020. DES just stopped paying people it flagged for fraud. No letters, no e-mails, no phone calls. Nothing.
These fraud investigations are a complete fabrication.
Governor Ducey and DES just don't want to pay people. They cannot say that publicly, so instead, they created a story about fraud investigations, which has allowed them to hold up people's payments and force them to go back to work.
It's hard to believe that Arizona didn't know that fraud would be a problem. Additionally, Arizona's highest unemployment benefit amount is $240, which isn't exactly a huge incentive to file a fraudulent claim. Who would bother with fake filings for such a low amount?
The $600 boost would maybe be an incentive to some people, but I don't know anyone who was making more money on unemployment than they were working.
If you got a pay raise because of the CARES Act, you weren't being paid a living wage at your job. I don't know anyone who is going to risk dying from COVID for very low wages.
Additionally, DES has bounced checks to claimants and taken back unemployment benefits from bank accounts. And, recently DES shut off thousands of people's BOA debit cards without notification, leaving about 3,800 legitimate claimants with no money. It has taken weeks for people to get that money back. At first DES seemed to deny that they knew anything about it, and a few days later, they admitted on social media that they had closed the accounts because of "fraud."
DES also stopped paying people whose IP addresses were not in Arizona, flagging them as fraudulent. This is ridiculous and frankly unbelievable...it's 2020 and people are mobile. They file from their cell phones and the phone service provider sets the IP address.
If you didn't have internet at home before the pandemic, you had no other choice but to use your phone because everywhere you could have gotten wi-fi access was closed during the shutdown. If you were waiting on DES to pay you, you were not getting internet installed at home, and I doubt technicians were still installing in people's homes during the shutdown.
Additionally, the law does not disqualify people from receiving benefits if they are out of state. The law requires you to file in the state where you last worked.
It seems to me that Arizona really doesn't give a damn about business owners unless they can write big checks to campaigns or bring low paying jobs to the state. If they cared about Arizona businesses, they would quit wasting all this time with "fraud investigations" that they could have prevented, and start paying people. After all, Congress intended the people to have that money.
In the meantime, people are getting evicted, cars repossessed, can't afford to buy food for themselves or their kids, and DES is SILENT as to the progress its making toward paying people.
Governor Ducey is also silent about the payment delays at DES.
Senator Sinema's office, while helpful and compassionate, cannot get a response from DES about any claims. DES ignores her. Her office doesn't seem to want to rock the boat and publicly pressure DES or Governor Ducey. This makes me wonder why.
If our elected officials can't get answers out of the agency, what is really going on?
There's absolutely zero transparency from the agency on social media. Getting through to them on the phone requires an auto dialer and even if you get into the queue, you are either going to get disconnected or the representative is not going to have the authority to fix the issues.
Mainstream media is quiet on the subject too. There is literally nothing in the local news about the fact that it's taking months for people to get paid.
I would not be surprised if a protest didn't start as soon as the weather isn't over 100 degrees.