FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — As the state fields questions about fraud in its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) system, others are asking whether initial website glitches are keeping them from getting payments. One Fayetteville man said he’s relying on financial help from his kids until he gets approved.
Tom Sawyer said he didn’t qualify for regular unemployment when COVID-19 began to spread through Arkansas.
“I wasn’t eligible for unemployment since I was still getting paid for that part-time job,” Sawyer said. “It’s not a lot of money, but it’s still a part-time job.”
So, Sawyer said PUA came along at the right time.
“I jumped right on it probably within the first hour of them saying it was available,” Sawyer said.
The PUA website initially experienced a series of glitches that delayed consistent payments, and Sawyer said his dilemma may relate back to that. He submitted his paperwork, but nothing popped up demonstrating it had been filed. When he tried to resubmit, the system alerted him that he’d already applied, but he was leery of the statement.
“I’d heard from other people that after they’d hit submit, it took them to a dashboard page,” Sawyer said. “I still to this day have never seen the dashboard page.”
Sawyer said he spoke with a PUA representative who told him to apply for regular unemployment. He did, but he was diverted back to the PUA. He said he’s filed an appeal and is in limbo.
“We’re not seeing many of those claims, so I think this individual might just be almost an anomaly,” said Mike Preston, the state’s Secretary of Commerce.
Preston said the website is working well now, minus flagged potential fraudulent claims that are bogging down quick payouts.
“We now have a brand-new system that’s been built basically from scratch to now intaking and handling about 120,000 continued claims this past week,” Preston said.
Problems like Sawyer’s are rare, Preston said.
“That needs to be addressed, a determination [needs to be made] by our UI team and having an expert look at it as opposed to going through that system,” Preston said.
Sawyer said he’s unable to support himself right now.
“Basically, I’ve been living off my kids since March,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer said he hopes something changes soon.
“I haven’t received anything,” Sawyer said. “I haven’t received a letter in the mail. I haven’t received an email