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Valley landlord trying to help tenants in trouble due to the pandemic

One local landlord has been fighting on behalf of his tenants as he tries to get them back on their feet.

PHOENIX — Millions of unemployment claims have been filed in Arizona this summer. 

The Arizona Department of Economic Security has tried to keep up, but even after more than 90,000 claims were paid last week, some say they still aren’t receiving their money.

One local landlord has been fighting on behalf of his tenants as he tries to get them back on their feet.

Shawn Haviland and his wife, in their retirement, wanted to give back. 

In retirement, they focused on renting out property to folks who may need a second chance, but not qualify for housing to get back on their feet. Those they are helping still pay rent, but it’s Haviland working with investors to get them in decent homes.

Now with a pandemic, many of those who he is trying to help, are at risk of losing it all once again.

“It’s one of the most frustrating and agonizing things I have ever been a part of,” Haviland said.

He said he does not know where to turn as eight of his tenants are all facing similar problems, unable to get money from unemployment. 

“Watching so many good people almost back to the point where they want to be just coming apart because of this little glitch,” Haviland said.

Eight tenants all with similar stories, unable to work because of the pandemic. 

“I don’t want to be on unemployment, but I need it.” Matthew Rhode, one of the tenants, said.

Rhode is a veteran. He said after getting a couple of payments more than a month ago, the payments suddenly stopped.

Since then, the status of his unemployment claims has been left at “in progress” for weeks.

“I'm a veteran, I made a sacrifice for this country and this state. I'm just asking for the assistance they offered me,” Rhode said.

In an email, the Arizona Department of Economic Security said “in progress” means the claim is still being evaluated. The state is still looking at more than 10,000 cases of potential fraud in the system.

Robert Benham said he hasn’t received unemployment since first filing after losing his job in July. Benham suffers from nocturnal seizures which he said have become more frequent. With no money coming in, he said he has no way for rent, car repairs or to visit his son.

“Please, help us out, we really need it,” Benham said.

Right now, both Robert and Matthew are holding on, but they say if payments don’t come soon they will run out of options.  

“I know I will be evicted from here eventually, I know the bank has talked about repossessing my vehicle. It’s all downhill from there," Rhode said.

Shawn Haviland said he has started calling DES on behalf of his tenants. On most calls, he says too many others are calling, and the system hangs up on him. On the few occasions, he has been able to make it through, those on the other end of the line said there is little they can do.

“One lady told me I can’t help you, best of luck, just pray, maybe it will resolve itself," Haviland said.