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Thousands of Arizonans affected by federal pandemic unemployment benefits ending

As of Monday, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance won't be available. Up to 82,000 Arizonans could be affected.

ARIZONA, USA — Federal pandemic unemployment ended Monday, leaving thousands of Arizonans who have been relying on assistance without it.

PUA and PEUC benefits ending

As of midnight on Labor Day, benefits for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance (PEUC) will no longer be available. 

According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s UI COVID dashboard, since August 28, the state has paid out almost $10 billion in PUA benefits since the pandemic started.

The last payable week for the benefits is the week ending Sept. 4. However, according to DES’ website, PUA claimants have until Sept. 18 to file their claims, and PEUC claimants have until Sept. 17 to file theirs.

Thousands left without benefits

Grand Canyon Institute is estimating from their research about 82,000 Arizonans are affected by the federal programs coming to an end.

“That’s going to be really hard,” said Dave Wells, Grand Canyon Institute's research director. “These are people who are getting up to $240 a week, and now they're going to be getting nothing.”

Wells estimates only about 1 in 10 people who are unemployed will be getting any kind of jobless benefit after Labor Day.

“It's going to be a real challenge,” Wells said. “Especially because even though the state’s recovered a lot of the jobs, our labor force keeps growing.”

Tough to match with jobs

On the jobs side, Wells said while there may be jobs available to folks who need them, they may not match with what the person is qualified for.

“They don’t always match up with the fields that people have been working in,” Wells said. “And the longer you’re unemployed, the harder it is to convince an employer that you should get hired.”

Wells used the education and healthcare fields as an example where there are many open positions, but people may not have the qualifications to be a teacher or nurse.

“There’s these mismatches between where people’s prior work experiences are and where some of the jobs are,” Wells said.

Unemployment rate higher than national average 

Wells said the hope is that the economy will recover quickly, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Arizona’s unemployment rate as of July 2021 is 6.6 percent, which is higher than the national average of 5.2 percent.

“Arizona’s unemployment rate has been higher than the national average for many months now and I don’t at this time foresee that changing,” Wells said.

In culmination with the end of other pandemic-related benefits, some Arizonans could now start to see their options quickly start to run out.

“Usually they already have things like food stamps, and the eviction moratorium has been ending, so they could be in a really difficult spot,” Wells said.

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