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Arizona ending federal unemployment booster, offering return-to-work bonus

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Thursday the state will stop paying the weekly federal unemployment booster in July and instead offer bonuses of up to $2,000 and other incentives for people who return to work.

The $300 weekly supplement to unemployed workers that has been offered during the COVID-19 pandemic will end July 10, replaced by perks intended to boost the state’s workforce by Labor Day.

“In Arizona, we’re going to use federal money to encourage people to work … instead of paying people not to work,” Ducey said in a press release.

Arizona will put aside $300 million of federal money for one-time bonuses of $2,000 to eligible individuals who find a full-time job and $1,000 to those who find part-time employment.

People who file new unemployment benefit applications after Thursday won’t be eligible for the bonuses. Neither will individuals who make more than $25 per hour — equivalent to $52,000 annually — at a new job.

Workers must begin employment by Labor Day, which is Sept. 6, to be eligible.

“We have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure those who were displaced received the support they needed for themselves and their families,” Arizona Department of Economic Security Director Michael Wisehart said in the release.

“Now that employers in all sectors are hiring, we’re ready to transition and enhance our assistance to families, job seekers and employers.”

Arizona is also providing $7.5 million for community college scholarships for eligible unemployed workers and $6 million for GED test preparation and exam fees for those without a high school diploma.

The state will provide three months of child care to eligible parents who return to work.

Parents have to already had filed unemployment benefits and earn $25 or less per hour to be eligible.

Funds from a $508.4 million federal investment meant for addressing housing stability in Arizona will also be made available for eligible workers.

There were about 180,000 jobs available across Arizona as of March, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Although more people are ready to work today in Arizona than before the pandemic, many businesses are struggling to fill vital positions,” Ducey said. “We cannot let unemployment benefits be a barrier to getting people back to work.”

The move comes less than two weeks after Ducey issued an executive order requiring Arizonans who receive unemployment benefits show proof they are looking for work.

The order rescinded a March 2020 order from Ducey that waived the requirements in advance of the COVID-19 pandemic beginning to make its mark across the state.

The Arizona Department of Economic Security will start enforcing that requirement beginning May 23.

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