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Court: DES in contempt for failure to appeal for benefits

Arizona’s social services agency has been found in contempt of court for failing to file dozens of court appeals requested by citizens who were denied benefits.

The Arizona Court of Appeals issued the decision Tuesday and found that the Department of Economic Security failed to comply with a prior court order requiring it to file about 100 appeals for unemployment benefits, food stamps and cash welfare assistance by early March.

The agency determines eligibility for those programs. People who are denied benefits can appeal using the agency’s internal process, and if that appeal is denied, they can file for a court review.

DES first failed to file those court reviews, and then failed to file them on time after the court issued an order requiring it do so. DES was 44 days late to finish the filings, according to Tuesday’s ruling.

The Court of Appeals in February issued an order detailing how appeals at the agency began plummeting in 2014 and slowed to a trickle by the current budget year that began July 1.

It’s unclear how the issue came to the court’s attention, but the order noted that one of two appeals received in December was nearly a year old. There was another batch of appeals from 2014.

The court is now requiring the department to submit monthly audit and inventory reports on appeals. 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