PHOENIX - More than 2,000 Arizonans will lose their unemployment benefits this week because the most recent federal relief bill extended the program to March, but capped how long someone can claim unemployment.
With Joe Biden as President and his party in power in Congress, many on unemployment are hopeful for an extension through September.
In the meantime, every week, more and more Arizonans are getting kicked off a program that’s been their lifeline during this economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arizonan, Connie White, is unemployed and says, "I’m in Payson. It’s a small town, so everything shut down."
White says she had to leave her job just before the pandemic to take care of elderly family and jobs were nowhere to be found when she was ready to come back.
"The jobs are not there still and it’s not out of laziness, I can assure you that," White said.
Now, she's under more stress as this is her 50th week of collecting unemployment from the department of economic security and despite the CARES Act extension of benefits through March and an extra $300 a week, the benefits end once an applicant hits 50 weeks.
"I’m at my dead end right now. I’m not going to have another help check. So it’s scary unless they do something. Keep my fingers crossed," White said.
Dave Wells with the Grand Canyon Institute says, "It’s a crisis for people because once you lose all income, that’s a massive disaster."
A small number of people have run out of benefits, he says, but it’s growing every week.
"Once you lose your income you can’t pay your bills. You can’t pay your car payment, can’t make your rent and so that means there’s a trickling event where it will ripple throughout the economy," Wells explained.
Biden’s relief plan would not only increase the weekly benefit but would also allow people who’ve exhausted benefits to continue to collect through September. Congress would have to pass it, which could take a bit.
"I’m panicking. This is the first time I’m looking at 'Wow. Where’s this money going to come from?'" White asked herself.
The Department of Economic Security says this week alone, 2,200 Arizonans are hitting their 50-week cap. The state's 13-week extended benefits came to an end in December because the insured unemployment rate wasn’t high enough to continue.
For more unemployment reports, visit this link.