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Fri, Oct. 23

Arizona won’t boost state unemployment benefits

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PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey said the state won’t make up the money that Arizona unemployed will lose when the $600 a week in extra federal benefits dries up this coming week.

In fact, the governor said that he has no interest in raising the state’s own jobless benefits from the current $240 a week, the second lowest cap in the country. He said that in normal times — meaning before the pandemic — there were plenty of jobs out there for people to find “at any time.’’

A more immediate problem faces the approximately 452,000 Arizonans who collected some form of unemployment compensation this past week.

That program expires this week. And Congress has yet to approve either an extension or, if nothing else, some scaled-back plan.

Of that total Arizonans getting a check, the Department of Economic Security reports about 255,000 were getting only Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. That is the $600 a week Congress agreed to provide for individuals who do not qualify for regular state jobless benefits, including the self-employed.

Absent congressional action, they will get nothing this coming week.

The balance are those in the regular state unemployment system. That covers those who, through no fault of their own, became unemployed.

By law, they are entitled to one-half of what they were earning. But state lawmakers, at the behest of the business community, have capped payments at $240 a week, no matter how much the person was earning before, a figure that has not be altered since 2004.

With no congressional action, those state checks of no more than $240 will be all they get.

The governor said that’s not his problem.

“I want to just say as clearly as I can that Congress needs to act,’’ Ducey said. “This is on Congress.’’

Anyway, he said, the state does not have the kind of money it would take to backfill the loss of federal dollars on any sustained basis.

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