DES distributes $225M to Arizona unemployment insurance
The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) announced April 20 that it had already distributed $150.9 million in unemployment compensation the week of April 12 to help Arizonans who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
DES officials say that they distributed an additional $74 million on April 20, a dollar amount which includes the $600 in additional weekly compensation provided by the CARES Act. Retroactive $600-per-week payments were also issued to eligible claimants who filed weekly certifications dating to March 29.
Claims for unemployment benefits due to COVID-19 continue to increase, with a record number of applications, benefits paid and calls received, a DES news release added.
“These payments are higher than DES has ever made before,” stated Tom Betlach, an official in DES’s Office of the Director. “We continue to enhance our staffing and systems to get Arizonans the benefits they need.”
An unemployment comparison between pre-pandemic and current conditions in Arizona reveals a stark contrast.
For the week ending March 14, a mere 3,844 initial claims were filed with DES, coupled with 17,595 continued weekly claims and 3,400 calls answered.
However, for the week ending April 18, initial claims jumped nearly 19-fold to 72,103. Meanwhile, continued weekly claims rose nearly 13-fold to 226,793. DES answered 23,700 calls, about a seven-fold increase.
To read a weekly claims report, visit azui.com.
On March 20, Gov. Doug Ducey issued an Executive Order and subsequently signed legislation ensuring that those who are out of work or facing a loss of hours because of COVID-19 have access to unemployment benefits.
Ducey’s order waived the one-week waiting period after an employee loses a job before he or she may apply for unemployment benefits, and it temporarily suspended work-search requirements for those receiving unemployment benefits.
The order also expanded who is eligible to receive unemployment benefits to include individuals:
• Whose employer has permanently or temporarily ceased or drastically reduced operations due to COVID-19, resulting in a reduction of wages;
• Who, due to requirements that the individual be quarantined, are separated from employment and do not have any available paid leave even if the individual has an expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over;
• Who leave employment due to a risk of exposure or infection and are a member of a population that is particularly susceptible to COVID-19;
• Who leave employment to care for a family member who has been infected with COVID-19; and
• Who, for any other scenario, are separated from work for reasons related to COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Labor, as of April 14, reported that Arizona was one of 29 states to issue the additional $600 in benefits to claimants, and one of 48 states continuing to develop the brand-new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which will extend benefits to groups previously ineligible for unemployment insurance.
ENHANCING PROGRAM INTEGRITY & FRAUD-DETECTION EFFORTS
In addition to increasing staff and system capabilities to ensure Arizonans are able to access unemployment compensation, DES officials state that they are strengthening their unemployment insurance program’s integrity and fraud-detection efforts to preserve benefits for those who are entitled to them.
DES added that it is doubling staff dedicated to program-integrity activities and developing new partnerships to leverage additional data sources and analytic capabilities.
By this end of the week of April 19, DES had stated that it would issue a Request for Information to engage private sector data-analytic partners.
These partners, DES added, would enhance its efforts to access and use additional data sources to identify potentially fraudulent claims and activity.
Persons may report suspected unemployment insurance fraud to DES online by visiting: fraudreferralexternal.azdes.gov.
WEEKLY CLAIMS REMINDER
Unemployment insurance claimants must file weekly claims to continue receiving benefits. This also goes for claimants whose initial claims are still pending. Unemployment insurance claimants may file weekly claims at azui.com. The online Weekly Claims System is available from 12:01 a.m. Sunday through 6 p.m. Friday. To find out more information about filing weekly claims, visit: des.az.gov/services/employment/unemployment-individual/weekly-unemployment-insurance-claims-QAs.
WHERE TO FIND INFORMATION ON JOB OPENINGS
Arizona@Work staffers provide people with no-cost job assistance to help them get back to work.
More information about available services and a list of jobs with immediate openings may be found at: arizonaatwork.com.
For additional information about unemployment insurance, or to apply, visit azui.com.
Information provided by Arizona Department of Economic Security.
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