Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to end Dec. 26 as Arizonans still struggle to find jobs

When the CARES Act expires at the end of the 2020, the impacts will be massive for hundreds of thousands of Arizonans on unemployment.

There hasn’t been any movement in Congress to extend federal unemployment benefits into the new year.

So, what happens next?

For unemployed Arizona resident, Brenda Luna, she says, "It keeps the lights on," when asked about the unemployment benefits.

Her weekly unemployment check from the Department of Economic Security is a lifeline to her family as she’s struggled to find a new job.

"Everyone’s saying, 'Everyone’s using the system, we’re sitting on our butts collecting unemployment.' That’s not true," she said.

Kim Smith is in the same boat being unemployed in Arizona. "It sucks. It makes you feel like less of a person because I’ve always supported myself," she said.

The last disbursement of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will be sent the week of Dec. 26 when the CARES Act expires.

"Having your benefits go to zero is really difficult," said Dave Wells with the Grand Canyon Institute. He studies unemployment impacts.

"When people don’t pay their bills, that means people who rely on landlords won’t be paid, the car company that was expecting the car payment to come in, they don’t receive their income, they have to lay off people. The whole thing multiplies. We can expect this makes the economy worse," he said.

Democratic State Representative, Mitzi Epstein, says legislators at the state level need to find a solution that doesn’t involve taxing small businesses.

"We cannot let that downward spiral of job loss happen but that’s what could happen if we let our unemployment insurance benefits end," Epstein said.

Congress has shown no signs of extending benefits. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema said to FOX 10, in part, "I continue strongly urging Congressional leaders in both parties to stop playing partisan games and extend federal unemployment support before the end of the year."

Senator-elect Mark Kelly also said, in part, "These programs, if allowed to expire, could make this winter even tougher for Arizonans."

FOX 10 reached out to Governor Doug Ducey's office to see what options leadership in the state would consider if Congress doesn’t extend the CARES Act, but didn’t get a response.

DES said even though the last disbursement is Dec. 26, if someone applied for benefits before the end of the year and has not received it yet, back pay would still be issued.

For more on the federal response to unemployment during the pandemic, click here.