Friday, May 14, 2021

Ducey to halt $300 federal boost to unemployment benefits

Posted By on Fri, May 14, 2021 at 8:14 AM

click to enlarge Ducey to halt $300 federal boost to unemployment benefits
Governor's Office file photo

Arizona will no longer provide the weekly $300 federal supplement for unemployed workers during the pandemic, Gov. Doug Ducey said on Thursday.

With his “Arizona Back-to-Work” Plan, thousands of Arizonans on unemployment will return to receiving the maximum $240 on July 10.

Several other states announced they also would stop taking the federal pandemic unemployment benefits, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, extended in March through the American Rescue Plan, provided an additional weekly $300 to cover freelancers, part-timers and anyone who did not qualify for regular unemployment and extended the benefit for an additional 24 weeks. The program is set to end on Sept. 4.

Instead, Ducey will use $300 million in federal money to encourage Arizonans to rejoin the workforce. The plan is a one-time $2,000 bonus for full-time workers and a $1,000 bonus for those who return part-time.

People will receive the bonus after they stop filing for unemployment benefits and complete 10 weeks of work with an employer. The bonuses are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

To qualify, an individual must have already filed for unemployment benefits, meaning anyone who files after May 13 will not be eligible. Individuals must also make $25 per hour or less - about $52,000 a year - at their new job and must begin working by Sept. 6.

“In Arizona, we’re going to use federal money to encourage people to work . . . instead of paying people not to work,” Ducey said.

He cited labor shortages and said unemployment benefits should not be a barrier for people to return to work.

The restaurant and hospitality industries continue to face hiring difficulties. Some Oro Valley restaurant owners have cited unemployment as a reason.

“Especially as we see the reemergence of customers and people shopping, dining, doing all of those kinds of things, the need for workers is extreme,” said Dave Perry, Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce president.

“And it's not just restaurants. It's hospitality. It's people that need drivers. All kinds of industries are trying to ramp up and they're having a difficult time finding employees. So, I am supportive of what the governor is doing and I think that we gotta get back to work. We got to do it and we got to get vaccinated. We have to get people vaccinated and that’s how we’re gonna return to normal.”

Perry notes some receive unemployment because they cannot work for health reasons or is a single parent with children at home in online schools.

“I understand and respect those positions. At the same time, the way that the economy functions is to have people in gainful employment and that helps everybody. That helps the worker. That helps the employer.”

Honest Arizona, a progressive grassroots coalition representing “everyday Arizonans,” opposes Ducey's decision.

“While many Arizonans have not yet recovered from the pandemic, Governor Ducey's decision to slash unemployment benefits is a major blow to thousands of Arizonans who lost their jobs and are still looking for work,” said Honest Arizona Executive Director Niles Harris. “Leaders from both parties voted to extend unemployment benefits for out-of-work Arizonans to help pay their bills, provide for their families and stay in their homes. This decision cuts more than half of the weekly assistance provided to Arizonans and is a devastating blow to struggling families.”

Ducey also announced the state would provide three months of child care assistance. Last week, Ducey announced the state would receive an additional $9 million for childcare providers.

The state would also provide $7.5 million for community college scholarships for unemployed workers and $6 million for GED test preparation and exam fees.

“We have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure those who were displaced received the support they needed for themselves and their families,” said Michael Wisehart, director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security. “Now that employers in all sectors are hiring, we’re ready to transition and enhance our assistance to families, job seekers and employers. We are committed to ensuring the long-term strength of Arizona’s economy to provide self-sufficiency for Arizona’s families.”

In March, Ducey also reinstated the rule that people must be actively looking for work in order to receive unemployment benefits.

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