JIM SHARPE

Unemployment is appropriate for Arizona’s DES management

May 12, 2020, 12:30 PM | Updated: 12:34 pm
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)...
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Like all of us, the folks at the Arizona Department of Economic Security are living in unprecedented times (remember, I told you a couple months ago that we’d be using the word “unprecedented” in an unprecedented fashion), but because things are so bad now – with hundreds of thousands of Arizonans out of work – this is THE WORST time for DES to drop the ball.

But drop the ball they have. 

Listen, I don’t blame the people who are taking the brunt of it: the DES workers who are talking to frustrated and angry unemployed people all day long — some who have been on hold for hours. I blame the managers managing the bureaucracy. 

Last week brought us the lowest number of Arizonans filing for unemployment benefits since the middle of March — but we still added tens of thousands to what was already an astonishing number: nearly 550,000 Arizonans have filed for unemployment since the shutdown started. 

That’s more than 15% of Arizona workers. 

About $160 million was paid out in state unemployment benefits just in the last week. 

But not everybody’s getting that dough and many of the unemployed aren’t seeing the $600 a week in federal money either. 

Zach Crenshaw, a reporter with our TV partners at ABC15, spoke with two guys from the Valley who say they’re getting shortchanged. One of them is Tom Hemingway from Gilbert. After getting furloughed, Tom was supposed to receive about $700 but got roughly $200. 

He told Zach that “the promise of a check doesn’t pay the bills.” 

But things are even worse for Bruce Johnston, a home repairman living in Buckeye. He says his claim was immediately denied. That’s probably because he’s self-employed. But he should still be eligible for the weekly $600 from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation fund. 

He told Zach he re-filed but “they’re [DES] telling me it’s going to be a four-week process.” 

In an emailed statement, the Department of Economic Security told ABC15, “We sincerely apologize and are working to correct this as quickly as possible.” 

I hope their “as quickly as possible” comes quickly enough for the unemployed who are barely hanging on. 

Jayme West (whose husband has been furloughed for weeks now) has a great suggestion: DES should hire some of the unemployed to help out their overworked, front-line employees. It would mean fewer benefits needing to be paid out and getting the benefits out sooner to those who really can’t wait. 

I have my own suggestion: If the people running DES can’t figure this out soon, maybe they should lose their jobs — or at least get furloughed long enough to have to file for unemployment. Not as a punishment — but because that’ll mean they’ll return to work with a newfound appreciation for those falling fast financially and can’t see the safety net that’s supposed to be below. 

We want to hear from you.

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Unemployment is appropriate for Arizona’s DES management