Gov. Ducey calls on Congress to act as federal unemployment benefits expire

Updated: Jul. 30, 2020 at 10:44 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Governor Doug Ducey said it was up to Congress to act on providing unemployment benefits as the federal supplement is set to expire.

Arizonans who have been receiving $840 in unemployment benefits due to job loss during the coroanvirus pandemic will now receive, up to, the state’s allotment of $240.

The boost from the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits has been vital in keeping out-of-work Americans and those working reduced hours afloat.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, passed in March, created a $2 trillion economic rescue package in response to the pandemic. It provided an extra $600 through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program to help reduce the impact for the over 20 million affected when businesses were shuttered nationwide.

Negotiations to extend those benefits as part of a larger coronavirus relief package have stalled.

“This is on Congress. Arizona is doing its part. The federal government has to do their part,” Gov. Ducey said during a press conference Thursday.

“Whether it’s the supplemental check, some time of extension of unemployment insurance benefits that can incent work but also make sure there is a social safety net that is stable,” said Gov. Ducey.

The governor said the state is not in a position, especially during a pandemic, to be borrowing money when asked if the state would step in and provide extra benefits to the unemployed.

“In Arizona, we live by a balanced budget,” said Gov. Ducey. “We have made the difficult decisions at the state level and we don’t have the ability to print money.”

“I’m very scared,” said Wendy Sander. “I don’t know... I don’t when I’m going to have more money coming in.”

Sander was laid off from the Arizona Theater Company in March and struggled to get her payment under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. She said she received one check in April, but has had trouble every week since in getting answers from the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

“Extremely frustrating. It’s been very difficult to understand the processes and the policies,” said Sander.

While Wendy is thankful she had a “little” money saved, she is worried what will happen past this weekend. She told KOLD News 13 she needed that extra $600 dollars for groceries and rent.

For the governor, it sounded like Sander’s problem, and that of tens of thousands of others in Arizona, will need to first be be fixed by the federal government.

However, questions on unemployment quickly went far past the pandemic Thursday as reporters pressed the governor on the assistance in Arizona, which is the second lowest amount provided in the country, behind Mississippi.

“I mean, could you exist on $240 a week?” asked Arizona Capitol Times reporter Howie Fischer.

“Howie, we’ve been working with the federal government on this. the program has been plussed up. The Department of Economic Security and the dollars we are putting for foster children, the developmentally disabled, all a priority in our state,” Ducey responded.

“If I have any advice for Congress, it would be to turnaround, order sandwiches in, stay the weekend, and figure this out,” said Gov. Ducey.

The Labor Department reported first-time unemployment claims increased for a second straight week Thursday, to more than 1.4 million.

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