Unemployed workers worry about future as $600 supplement to unemployment benefits about to expire

With additional federal unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of the week with no firm plan to continue them, countless Arizonans will lose $600 a week in benefits.

During a news conference on July 30, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey pushed Congress to renew the federal payments, but declined to support increasing state unemployment payments that are among the lowest in the nation.

"We don’t the ability to print money," said Gov. Ducey. "If I had any advice for Congress, it would be to turn around, order sandwiches in, stay the weekend, and figure this out."

When pressed, Gov. Ducey gave no indication state benefits would increase

"Arizona has done its part, it’s time for Congress to do theirs. I can’t be more clear on that," said Gov. Ducey.

Without the $600 supplement, Arizona’s unemployment payment maxes out at $240 per week, second-lowest in the nation above only Mississippi. More than 450,000 people are receiving unemployment benefits in Arizona, up from about 17,500 before Ducey began ordering businesses to close in March to contain the spread of the virus.

Unemployed workers speak out

“The third, I believe, of June was the first time I tried to file for unemployment," said Sally Hueston.

Since then, Hueston hasn’t seen a dime from the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

Hueston is a potential victim of fraud. She found out her Social Security number was already in use, but getting it resolved hasn’t been easy.  She was supposed to be getting $840 a week, but has gotten zero.

Meanwhile, that $840 is about to be reduced to only $240 a week.

"The possibility of a car payment or paying an electric bill is just fading, and I have no control over it," said Hueston.

Kim Smith says DES closed her bank account with about $5,000 in it. The money that she was saving is gone and the drastic unemployment reduction is a hit she can’t take.

"It’s not going to do much," said Smith, who is currently living with friends. "I have to eat, I have to put gas in the car, things like that. I’m not going to be able to get an apartment."

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.

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