COVID-19 relief bill expected to boost unemployment benefits for thousands of Arizonans

As millions of Americans await another round of stimulus payments, those who are unemployed are also expecting a bump in benefits as well -- but the timing of the president's signature may have actually cost the state millions of dollars.

We’ve said it before. Arizona has the second lowest unemployment pay out in the country. So any increase on top of that will have a significant impact for the tens of thousands of family collecting -- but they’ll have to wait at least an extra week now before seeing the extra funds.

Finally last month, Elizabeth Newcomb’s unemployment insurance was reinstated.

"There were days where I was just like ok lord... something's gotta break here because it’s just too much," she said.

The single mother in Prescott says it took five months to prove to the Arizona Department of Economic Security she wasn’t fraudulent and had worked in a school cafeteria.

But just because the money is back, doesn’t mean the problems are gone since Arizona pays out the second lowest unemployment in the country.

"It’s almost impossible with $104 a week," said Newcomb.

Now that will soon change. The president's signature on the new relief bill means Arizonans on unemployment will now receive an extra $300 for the next 10 weeks.

However, by signing the bill on Dec. 27 instead of Dec. 26 when the previous program expired, there will be one week where more than 130,000 will get nothing.

"We estimate it’s $80 million not coming to households this week alone," said Dave Wells of the Grand Canyon Institute.

GCI says that one week loss compounds into a bigger problem.

"People take that money and they go to the grocery store and spend it. They go to the hardware store and spend it and so it recirculates in the economy and helps people throughout the economy benefit and as a result, the restaurants or anywhere else they would have spent the money don’t receive anything," explained Wells.

However, after the one week freeze, if DES is able to restart the program on time, it could mean more than a billion dollars in economic activity in Arizona.

"I can get my rent paid.. I don’t have to worry about if we’re going to be homeless.. that stress I don’t wish on anybody," said Newcomb.

In a statement, DES says they’ve been preparing for this every day this past week adding, "We are working with the U.S. Department of Labor and other federal partners to understand all of the implications of the bill and the impacts of the timing of the president’s signing, and we will implement as rapidly as possible once we receive federal guidance."

DES says the first week the federal increase will be payable is on or after the week of Jan. 3.

It’s unclear if the money will be ready to be disbursed at that point though.

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