Arizonans start receiving extra $300, but some will be left out

Arizona Department of Economic Security
Posted at 8:42 PM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-18 22:12:27-04

During his press conference on Thursday, Governor Doug Ducey alluded to an announcement that would be made on Friday about unemployment benefits.

The next day, in a couple of afternoon tweets, Ducey announced that the state would take up President Trump on his offer of additional federal unemployment benefits he authorized through executive order.

Ducey said the amount would be $300 instead of the $400 the president called for in his order. The federal Stafford Act cited in Trump's executive order gives a president power to distribute money during emergencies, but the Act requires that states contribute 25 percent to the federal 75 percent.

That missing match is the reason Dave Wells with the Grand Canyon Institute thinks the benefit might be illegal.

"They (the Trump administration) are that saying the state can discount the unemployment insurance money that the state would already be paying," Wells said. "But they're going to get away with it, because somebody has to file a suit, and that means if they win that people would lose the supplement and who wants to take the political heat for doing that?"

Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak told ABC15, "That is incorrect. We are following federal guidance provided by the Department of Labor."

Either way, some Arizonans got the $300 on Monday but did not receive retroactive payments for the weeks ending August 1 and August 8. DES says those payments will come later this week.

But there are still questions about whether or not some Arizonans will be left out. Wells estimates 15,000 underemployed claimants will make too much to qualify.

Because unlike the CARES Act which only requires people receive $1 in unemployment to qualify, this new program excludes anyone receiving less than $100 per week in unemployment.

"We're talking about people who had been working 32 hours a week, but have had their hours cut back to 10 hours," Wells said. There are also claims that are unaccounted for at the moment.

On Friday Governor Ducey's office saidroughly 371,100 claims has been paid for the week ending on August 8. That number is significantly less than the 629,172 claims filed for that same week, according to the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES).

This leaves 258,072 claims that were unpaid. So whom do these claims belong to? Agency spokesman Brett Bezio sent a statement explaining ,"These claims may be eligible or ineligible, may have active issues, or may have been filed by the same person."

ABC15 asked for a breakdown of how many claims are in each category Bezio provided. He said the numbers were not readily available.

But based on viewer emails to ABC15 the list of people who have "active issues" is long and the calls to get them corrected go unanswered.

Even after paying out more than $8 billion in benefits and hiring 900 people DES says it is still receiving between 70,000 and 120,000 phone calls per day. It is the same number the agency said it was receiving in the middle of May.