This article was last updated on January 5
While the Arizona (AZ) Department of Economic Security (DES), the state agency that manages unemployment insurance programs and payouts, has implemented the enhanced unemployment programs it is still under pressure processing claims and making retroactive (back dated) payments in a timely fashion. This is a known issue as their systems are struggling to handle the spike in UI payments under various programs and addressing a surge in fraudulent claims. However the good news, per the comments below and across this site (see more UI resources), is that unemployed claimants are now getting their current and back payments on a more regular basis. But it is also clear that many, especially those applying for PUA benefits, are still waiting or unable to get clarity around gaps or delays in getting their expected benefit.
2021 Unemployment Program Extensions Under COVID Relief Bill
The $900 billion COVID-19 relief package was passed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, which among several other pandemic relief measures extends and provides additional federal funding for enhanced unemployment benefits. This includes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and a reinstatement, but halving of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Program which provides a $300 supplemental weekly unemployment payment.
These programs have been funded and extended for 11 weeks (on top of any state funded extensions), covering the weeks of December 27th, 2020 to March 14th, 2021. While the bill was only signed on 12/27 and there have been some reports that the claimants may lose one week of benefits (since funding for all these programs ended on December 26th) the Department of Labor has confirmed an added $300 per week FPUC will be available starting the week ending 1/2/21, so eligible claimants will receive the full 11 weeks of payments (a total of $3,300). To receive FPUC benefits, you must be receiving regular UI, PEUC, EB, or PUA.
Final guidelines on these programs and final eligibility including additional document verification procedures to combat Fraud have been issued by the Department of Labor and then have to be implemented by the state UI agency in their systems and programs. So this could delay the actual date of payments.
[AZ DEZ Update on Payment] The first week allowable by law for the additional $300 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation will be payable for weekly certifications filed on or after January 3 for the benefit week ending January 2, 2021. DES continues to work urgently to provide this additional benefit to claimants as quickly as possible.
UI claimants with existing or expired claim balances should be aware of the following:
- PUA and PEUC, FPUC will be automatically added to the claimants’ benefits if they are eligible for the weeks outlined in the new legislation.
- Claimants with weeks remaining in UI should continue to file weekly claims
- Claimants who will have additional weeks in UI and PUA or PEUC due to state provisions (where applicable) should watch their state agency UI portal or website for updates that will allow additional weeks to be filed.
- Claimants will receive retroactive payments for all weeks they are eligible.
- Claimants currently receiving benefits through the Extended Benefits program must finish all weeks of EB before receiving additional weeks of PEUC.
I will post additional details as they are released in coming days. So stay tuned for updates.
Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program – Now Expired/Paid Out
Arizona was one of the first states to have rolled and paid out the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program and started making the $300 extra weekly payments at the end August. Governor Dorsey announced that Arizonans who are unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19 and are currently receiving at least $100 in unemployment benefits (including programs below) will be eligible to receive up to $540 a week, including $300 a week in LWA funds funded by FEMA.
The LWA payment is subject to both federal and state income taxes. DES will make the LWA payments in the same manner as any payment from current UI programs payable for the week involved; claimants do not need to file a separate application for this payment.
Initial payments were added to the Weekly Benefit Amount starting August 17, and DES began issuing retroactive payments for the benefits weeks ending August 1 and August 8 later that week. All retroactive payments will be completed the week ending August 28. See more details on the DES LWA page.
Fraud issues delaying payments – As part of its increased fraud detection efforts, DES closed accounts with suspicious account information and activity located out of state.. However a small portion of individuals eligible for benefits who may be impacted by these measures and may see a pause or delay in getting their benefits. These individuals should contact DES directly at AZUIFraud@azdes.gov. Once a case is validated as not being fraudulent, benefits will resume and/or a new debit card will be issued to the claimant and the funds will be reloaded.
CARES Act Unemployment Compensation Enhancements
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020 expands Reemployment Assistance benefits. Benefits will be paid from the date they became eligible under the CARES Act. Programs included in the CARES Act are:
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – provides an additional $600 per week to any eligible individual until 7/31/2020 (an extension is under review). The $600 would be paid the first week of your unemployment claim period but no earlier than 4/5/20.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – provides up to 39 weeks of benefits per week to those not ordinarily eligible for Reemployment Assistance. This includes individuals who are self-employed or contract employees. The additional $600 FPUC per week will be automatically added to all regular UI and PUA benefits. PUA claimants who were not able to certify for eligible weeks prior to April 19 are now able to file for eligible weeks back to their last date of employment (but no earlier than February 2). Individuals must file weekly PUA certifications for each week for which they are claiming eligibility for benefits, including retroactive certifications back to their last date of employment.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – allows for an additional 13 weeks of benefits added to the end of regular unemployment insurance benefits. This means claimants may collect unemployment benefits for a longer period of time than under normal circumstances. Claimants will need to apply for PEUC benefits once the balance of their current claim is exhausted. Those who have already exhausted their benefits or have a UI claim that expired after July 6, 2019, will also be able to apply. Your PEUC weekly benefit amount is the same as your regular UI weekly benefit amount (between $187 and $240). Your weekly benefit amount is based on your reported earnings during the base period (the first four of the last five completed quarters).
You are eligible for PEUC if:
- You are unemployed for weeks within the time frame of March 29 through December 26, 2020;
- You exhausted your regular state or federal benefits after July 6, 2019;
- You are not currently eligible for state or federal unemployment benefits; and
- You are able and available to work.
- Note – You are not eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) if you are eligible for PEUC.
Claims for PEUC can be filed for the weeks ending 6/6 and 6/13. Retroactive claims can be filed by calling 877-600-2722 or by completing a Weekly Claim form for each week.
Filing a Claim
- Apply Online anytime between 12:00am on Sunday through 6:00pm on Friday.
- Apply by phone, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. 1 (877) 600-2722
- Submit a claim by mail. Download the Arizona Initial Claim for Unemployment Insurance.
- PEUC is now available. Learn more by visiting the PEUC page.
- The PUA portal is live and can be accessed at pua.azdes.gov.
Login using the same credentials you used to file your regular UI claim, then proceed to the initial UI claim section to file your claim. If you are unable to file online, call the UI Call Center toll free at 1-877-600-2722 or TDD: 7-1-1. The Department will notify you when you are able to file your retroactive and ongoing weekly claims for PEUC benefits.
To maintain Unemployment Insurance benefits, you are required to file weekly claims confirming that you continue to meet the requirements to receive Unemployment Insurance.
Issues with your unemployment claim
If you have issues with your UI claim, your benefit amount will show as $0.00 until the claim is processed. DES staff are working trying to process outstanding issues on claims, and you will be notified when a decision is made on your claim. Please note: You will be contacted if additional information is needed. After submitting this information, your claim will be under review while our adjudicators continue to process your claim and will notify you when a decision is made. Submitting duplicate documents may result in further delay to processing claims.
You must file a claim every week you are unemployed, or underemployed. The benefit week starts on a Sunday and ends on Saturday. The Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report will be replaced by a new Unemployment Data Dashboard, which enhances and supplements the data previously reported. It will be updated every Tuesday.