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Ducey to shift federal unemployment assistance to 'Arizona Back To Work' program

Unemployment payments to be cut by $300 starting July 10
Doug Ducey, Cara Christ
Posted at 11:07 AM, May 13, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Arizona has now joined a number of states opting to end federal unemployment assistance early.

Gov. Doug Ducey announced Thursday the state would shift the federal funding meant to enhance unemployment benefits to a new program he calls "Arizona Back to Work."

As part of a pandemic relief package passed by Congress earlier this year, the federal government covers an extra $300 per week in payments to those filing for unemployment. Now, Ducey says that $300 will dry up starting July 10, shifting those federal funds to a new program aimed at encouraging unemployed Arizona to rejoin the workforce.

Arizona joins 11 other states who have opted to end federal unemployment assistance early: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming.

Without the additional federal funds, state unemployment benefits will return to a maximum of $240 per week.

According to a news release from the governor's office, the program sets aside $300 million of those federal funds to offer a one-time, $2,000 bonus to some workers who return to work. The bonuses only apply to those who have already applied for unemployment benefits, and do not apply to those applying for new benefits moving forward. The bonuses are only offered to workers earning $25 per hour or less -- or the equivalent of about $52,000 yearly salary -- and must start the new job by Labor Day, Sept. 6.

The program will also fund three months of child care assistance to those who qualify for bonuses, though the governor's office didn't specify exactly how much money parents can expect to receive.

The state is also setting aside $7.5 million in community college scholarships for workers who are eligible for the return-to-work bonuses, as well as $6 million for GED test preparation and exam fees for eligible workers.