PHOENIX - Despite a bumpy start this weekend, on Jan. 5, thousands of Arizonans began receiving an extra $300 a week in unemployment benefits after lawmakers passed a long-awaited COVID-19 relief bill.
For three months, Arizonans have been receiving a max benefit of $240 a week, the second-lowest amount in the country. It’s meant many have put off mortgage and rent payments, and car payments were avoided.
Arizona woman feels relief as additional benefits kick in
Suzanne Hinners loved her job as a caterer but has been collecting unemployment due to the pandemic. "We do a lot of stuff with ASU, we do a lot of stuff with the zoo, weddings, corporate events," she said.
Bringing some much-needed relief, her weekly payout was a bit larger on Tuesday. "I’m so grateful. It’s hard. My kids are home from school. I have two kids in high school and it is a relief like we can finally breathe," Hinners said.
Arizona's Department of Economic Security (DES) is now one of the first unemployment agencies in the US to start dishing out the increase. It was a bumpy start Sunday as thousands were unable to file for benefits, but the agency now says it's solved the issue.
"Hopefully it will smooth the transition from being unemployed to full employment," says Garrick Taylor with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.
It’s an important boost for families teetering on the edge, especially considering Arizona pays out the second-lowest unemployment in the country.
"It’s hugely important. It doesn’t solve all of our problems or if you’re out of work, it doesn’t solve all of your problems, but it is a bridge to a broader reopening of the economy especially with more and more vaccines being deployed every day. This could be an economic shot in the arm," Taylor said.
Hinners moderates a Facebook group for people struggling to navigate the complexities of unemployment and says she hears from many that needed the financial boost.
"Losing their homes and cars, and kids are home from school, it’s such a disaster, so it’s such a relief," she said.
DES says the max weekly benefit will now be $540. The benefits will run until Mar. 13 unless lawmakers extend the benefits.
For more unemployment reports, visit this link.