PHOENIX — The number of Arizonans out of work and seeking benefits hit yet another new record this past week as the state economy continues to feel the effects of COVID-19.
New figures from the state Department of Economic Security show there were 129,215 initial claims for the week ending Friday. That compares with 88,688 the week before, 29,348 the week before that — and fewer than 3,000 at the end of February.
But it will be at least two weeks before any of these people see any checks.
DES spokeswoman Tasya Peterson said it normally takes 14 days to process the applications and determine eligibility. In some cases, she said, it can take a week beyond that.
But Peterson noted that the benefits, when approved, are retroactive to the date of the application. And due to a recent change in Arizona law, there is no longer a one-week waiting period.
Less clear is how much people will get, at least initially.
Arizona law provides for those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own to receive half of what they were making. But there is a cap of $240 a week, the second lowest in the country.
Congress did approve legislation adding an extra $600 a week. But Peterson said her agency is still waiting for clear guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor before increasing the size of the checks.
And that $600 boost only applies for the time between March 28 through the end of July.
The labor situation has been complicated not only by the virus but by the decision of Gov. Doug Ducey to issue a “stay-at-home” order for all but essential workers.
That still allows people to travel for things like buying groceries and picking up meals at restaurants. But it has left many companies unable to sustain their current workforce.
In general, eligibility for unemployment benefits requires recipients to do at least four jobs searches a week.
But a change in state law, necessitated to get federal dollars, expands eligibility to cover those who cannot work because of COVID-19, whether because they have it, they have been furloughed, or they are at home taking care of someone because of the virus.