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Valley mom ineligible for unemployment with reduced work hours

Part-time hours could disqualify you for unemployment
Posted at 9:33 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-18 17:07:07-04

CHANDLER, AZ — While some employees are heading back to work, many are doing it with drastically reduced hours.

Constance Cates, of Chandler says, the company that she works for furloughed 10 percent of workers and reduced hours to 20 per week for everyone else.

The single mom of a 3-year-old son, makes just enough not to qualify for unemployment benefits.

"My excessive earnings is like $40 a week," she said.

In Arizona, the most any unemployed worker can receive in unemployment benefits is $240 per week.

In a statement, Arizona Department of Economic Security told ABC15, in part, if workers "earn over $30.50 a week, the Department will deduct each dollar in earnings over that amount from their weekly benefit amount. Individuals who receive at least $1 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will receive the additional $600 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation." You'll find an explanation of the calculation here.

Unemployment attorney Nina Targovnik, with Community Legal Services, says if a worker makes $240 or more -- regardless of whether hours have been slashed -- workers will not qualify for unemployment insurance or the additional $600 CARES Act benefit.

Have questions about unemployment resources or returning to work? Send your questions and story ideas to the Rebound Arizona team in the form below.

"People are going to be in a very difficult position because they could be working and earning less than they were on unemployment, which has never really happened in Arizona before," she said.

While making even $1 less would allow eligibility, and getting to that threshold doesn't take much.

"Minimum wage is $12 an hour, so if you're working 20 hours you're making $240 (weekly)," Targovnik said.

And refusing work makes claimants completely ineligible for benefit altogether.

"I feel really overwhelmed right now," Cates said.

Overwhelmed and underemployed. Cates said focusing on her little boy while she figures out what's next, helps keep it all in perspective.

"I don't know what I'd do without him," she said.