DES: $600 federal unemployment checks, more state aid coming this week




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Arizonans out of work because of COVID-19 began receiving the $600 weekly unemployment aid from the federal government on Monday morning.

The Arizona Department of Economic Security, which is overwhelmed with unprecedented jobless claims, said last week it had updated its system to issue the federal aid and had streamlined its application system to process cases that allow people to collect state unemployment insurance going back to March 11, if they lost their job or have reduced income due to COVID-19.

The federal unemployment assistance, part of the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program created under the $2 trillion aid bill passed by Congress last month, provides an additional $600 weekly on top of state jobless benefits. This program also covers residents who are usually not eligible for the state unemployment program like business owners, self-employed people, and contractors who are impacted by COVID-19. 

DES said those federal payments will be retroactive to March 29.

Today, DES began distributing the additional $600 in (unemployment) benefits provided by CARES Act for those who filed their weekly certification yesterday,” DES spokesman Brett Bezio said in an email Monday.

DES also reported that it paid almost $27 million last week in unemployment benefits, nearly 500% more than it did the week before. In the month of March and the first two weeks of April, 353,000 residents filed new unemployment claims, DES figures show. 

To receive the federal aid and state benefit, people must have an unemployment application active with DES. 

Changes to state law allow people whose income is affected by COVID-19 to receive aid for all of the weeks they’ve been unemployed since March 11. The state unemployment payments range between $187 and $240 per week – the second-lowest amount of aid in the country – for up to 26 weeks. The federal aid extends the weeks people can collect unemployment aid from both state and federal programs to 39 weeks. 

How to apply for unemployment in Arizona

Applications are submitted online at www.azui.com. The website is not available Friday after 6 p.m. and Saturday. People without internet access can file by phone on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. through the unemployment insurance call center, 877-600-2722.

Who is eligible

There are two notable changes to the state’s unemployment insurance program: people are no longer required to prove they are actively seeking work to be eligible, and people no longer have to be jobless for a full week to apply.

DES is encouraging jobless residents to apply “as soon as they know that their employment and income will be affected by COVID-19.” 

People who are not eligible for state unemployment benefits but qualify for federal aid — like self-employed individuals, contract workers or gig workers — still have to submit an initial application to the state and continue declaring the state every week that they’re jobless.  

What documents are needed

People need to provide their Social Security number, mailing address, county of residence and, if available, their driver License or state-issued ID number. 

They’ll also need information about their employment history including: names, addresses, and phone numbers of all employers for the last 18 months; the mailing address and telephone number for the most recent employer; the last day worked immediately prior to filing the UI claim; and the amount (before deductions) and date of any payment for severance, vacation, holiday or unused sick pay.

For contractors, self-employed and gig economy workers who don’t have this information on work history available, DES encourages them to “respond truthfully, and to follow any guidance provided within the application for those specific questions,” Bezio said.

Laura Gómez
Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for Spanish-language news and feature reporting. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.