TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - In Arizona, 951,000 people who are unemployed could lose a substantial part of their unemployment benefits if the United States Congress does not extend them beyond the end of July.
Arizona pays its unemployed, $240 a week, the second lowest in the nation. However, the federal CAREs Act, a $2 Trillion stimulus package passed by Congress in March, added $600 a week to those benefits through July.
Now, they are set to expire and Congress does not have an alternative in place.
“I think everybody realizes Congress almost always acts at the last minute,” said Arizona Governor Doug Ducey at his weekly coronavirus update. “So we are exploring what our options are.”
“It was an avalanche,” said Frank Powers, who lost his job as a radio disc jockey when the pandemic hit. “It was like a perfect storm which happened too fast.”
Powers also had a part time gig entertaining children but of course, that dried up too.
“That’s what scares me,” Powers said. “I had all these gigs lined up and now I know they’re not coming through.”
So Powers applied for unemployment and was approved.
“It saved my life,” he said. “It’s the reason I have food in my belly.”
Not just food in his belly, but money in the bank.
“It’s like, oh wow, I haven’t had this much money for this long,” Powers said. “If this is now kind of standard, it’s nice.”
But the Governor and Congress are concerned about the standard it may set.
“What we want to do is make sure people are not falling through the cracks,” the Governor said. “What we don’t want to do is incentivize somebody who would go back to work, to not go back to work.”
And that is a complaint from some business owners.
“Some of the employers that I’ve talked with have had challenges bringing some of those individuals back to work,” said Michael Guymon, the Communications Director for the Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Guymon said paying the workers more, like under a hazard pay plan, is being discussed.
But Powers says most everyone he knows is anxious to get back to work and may like him, are reassessing their return to work.
“But it was an eye opener of like I need to refocus my life,” Powers said. “Cause I’m not making enough money.”