New COVID-19 relief package brings lifeline for unemployed Arizonans

News of the House and Senate passing the COVID-19 relief bill might mean the most to those on unemployment in Arizona.

The relief package, agreed to on Dec. 20 and approved by both chambers on the night of Dec. 21, will provide $600 in direct stimulus payment to most Americans, as well as providing subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers, and renters facing eviction.

On direct payments, the bill provides $600 to individuals making up to $75,000 per year and $1,200 to couples making up to $150,000, with payments phased out for higher incomes. An additional $600 payment will be made per dependent child, similar to the last round of relief payments in the spring.

In addition, the bill will establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit.

The $300 per week bonus jobless benefit was half the supplemental federal unemployment benefit provided under the $1.8 billion CARES Act in March, and would be limited to 11 weeks instead of 16 weeks.

Some in Arizona say while the bill does not provide enough support, it is better than nothing.

"At this point in the pandemic, anything is almost better than nothing and $600 might not go as far, but at least it's something," said Palmer Molstad, who is waiting for a disability check. "I have Stage III liver failure, a bunch of other internal issues, and I have yet to receive my disability back paycheck that I've been waiting for three months."

Expert says relief package could lift Arizona's economy

In Arizona, over 200,000 people collected unemployment this week. at $240 a week, Arizona has the second-lowest unemployment benefit payout in the country. News of the supplemental payments means more than just a boost to those unemployed, as it affects the entire economy.

According to Dave Wells with the Grand Canyon Institute, the congressional deal will add more than a billion dollars to Arizona's economy, as those unemployed can now start to pay rent, pay bills and buy things again, which helps everyone.

"This is going to make just a huge difference for people for up to 11 weeks to get them up to mid-March, when hopefully, the economy will be better and they can get fully employed again," said Wells.

In a statement, officials with DES say they hope to get benefits up and running as soon as they get guidance.

"We recognize the urgency, so the Department has already started preparations for the possible extension in order to be able to implement quickly and mitigate interruption or delays in benefits to claimants if the legislation is enacted," a portion of the statement read.

The Grand Canyon Institute also stressed that if someone already exhausted their benefits, they will now be able to reapply if they’re still unemployed for this 11-week extension.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.

Arizona Department of Economic Security

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COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

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COVID-19 resources

CDC Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)