At the end of July, Governor Doug Ducey said that “The state will not step in to provide a cushion for Arizonans facing a $600 drop in weekly jobless benefits.” Arizona will wait for Congress to act on jobless benefits as enhanced payments expire, Ducey says:
The Republican governor said Thursday that Congress must act first to assist those struggling to get by after the emergency federal benefits expired Saturday. Arizonans previously receiving up to $840 a week in unemployment benefits will now get, at most, $240 a week from the state if officials do nothing.
“We don’t print money at the state level. We’re not in a position today, especially during a pandemic, to be borrowing money,” Ducey said at an afternoon news conference. “Right now, in this economy, we need Congress to do its part.”
The governor doubled down as one reporter after another pressed him on the issue, asking how Arizonans trying to survive in a pandemic-ravaged economy were expected to live on $240 a week — one of the lowest weekly payouts in the nation.
Though the governor said he wanted to “make sure that there’s a social safety net … for people that have been displaced because of the pandemic,” he argued Arizona leaders had already “done our job on this.”
Arizona caps unemployment benefits at $240 per week, the second lowest rate in the nation. Only Mississippi has a lower rate. Arizona also has the highest threshold for receiving benefits in the nation. Workers must be working at least 30 hours weekly at minimum wage to qualify. That excludes many part-time workers from receiving any assistance. Arizona Has the ‘Worst’ Unemployment Benefits. Don’t Expect That to Change.
The White House and Senate Republicans failed to negotiate in good faith with the House, opting instead for a political stunt in which President Trump signed executive orders (actually memorandums) over the weekend to burnish his authoritarian “Dear Leader” image.
Let’s focus on just the unemployment benefits. Breaking down the executive actions Trump signed on coronavirus relief:
Trump described the memorandum signed Saturday as an action providing “an additional or extra $400 a week and expanded benefits.”
But in reality, the additional unemployment aid is more complicated than the White House acknowledged and experts say it may not help a lot of the unemployed.
Under the previous unemployment benefit passed by Congress, millions of Americans received an additional blanket $600 a week from the federal government on top of their state unemployment benefits.
States have to chip in. Now, under Trump’s measure, the federal government is requiring states to pick up the tab for 25% ($100) of the as much as $400 additional benefit each person may be able to receive weekly in additional aid. On top of that, a state must agree to enter into this financial agreement with the federal government for any unemployed person living there to get any of the additional benefits.
On Sunday night, Trump [backtracked and] said he was open to allowing people to get the enhanced benefit without states picking up some of the cost. He said it was possible that the federal government could pick up the entire cost if governors make a request.
“We have a system where we can do 100% or we can do 75%, they pay 25, and it will depend on the state,” he said to reporters before returning to the White House from his resort in New Jersey. “And they will make a application. We will look at it, and we’ll make a decision.”
Note: Governor Ducey and Republicans in the Arizona legislature have declared they will do nothing to increase Arizona’s miserably low unemployment benefits. They sure as hell are not going to approve a $100 additional benefit in order to “apply” for Trump’s unemployment benefit program. Therefore, you will see no additional unemployment benefits, and you will have to get by on the maximum benefit of $240 per week, most Arizonans will receive less.
States are in dire financial straits. Many states have already asked the federal government for major financial help. Several experts told CNN there are major questions about how many states may be able to afford the extra cost.
If a state says that it does not have the funds or does want to enter into the agreement with the federal government, the unemployed person in that state receives zero dollars in extra federal benefits (they would still receive the normal state unemployment insurance).
In fact, states have asked Congress to provide them with an additional $500 billion to help shore up their budgets, which have been crushed by the loss of tax revenue amid the pandemic. This has been one of the main points of contention between Democrats, who want to allocate additional aid, and Republicans, who don’t want to bail out what they say are badly managed states.
The millions of Americans who’ve filed for jobless benefits also have drained several states’ unemployment benefits trust funds. Already, 10 states have borrowed nearly $20 billion from the Treasury Department to cover their share of payments, which typically last 26 weeks.
Note: Late last week, Trump tweeted that he had “no interest” in providing $1 trillion to state and local governments, adding that Pelosi and Schumer were “only interested in Bailout Money for poorly run Democrat cities and states.” This is Trump’s partisan “blue state bailout” talking point. If he could send relief money to red states who will vote for him, and deny funds to blue states who will vote against him he would, but he cannot discriminate in this way so no one gets any aid.
The AP reports, No federal relief leaves states, cities facing big deficits: “In a June report, Moody’s Analytics found that states would need an additional $312 billion to balance their budgets over the next two years while local governments would need close to $200 billion.” “The negotiation meltdown raises the prospect of more layoffs and furloughs of government workers and cuts to health care, social services, infrastructure and other core programs. Lack of money to boost school safety measures also will make it harder for districts to send kids back to the classroom.”
Trump’s order allocates $44 billion in federal dollars from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to boost unemployment aid for the jobless and calls on states to kick in roughly $15 billion. The Trump administration says states can pull from federal coronavirus relief funds already distributed to states earlier in the crisis. States strain to carry out Trump order on unemployment aid. “But some states have already fully allocated that money for other critical needs.”
Governor Ducey needs to disclose how much money Arizona has remaining from federal coronavirus relief funds already distributed. Governor Ducey also needs to disclose the financial status of Arizona’s unemployment trust fund. Does Arizona even have these funds?
Requires a new system. Because Congress has not authorized an extension of extra federal unemployment assistance, the state will have to set up an entirely new system to deliver the additional aid.
“The state has to enter an agreement saying not only can they pay the benefit, but that they have some ability to administer the benefit,” said Michelle Evermore, an unemployment expert at the National Employment Law Project.
Building a brand new program could take states months to accomplish, Evermore said. She added Trump needed to do it this way because “in order for states to administer a benefit it has to be authorized by Congress, so they can’t use their administrative systems to pay a benefit that hasn’t been authorized by Congress.”
Note: Arizona’s antiquated unemployment system took weeks to set up a process for the $600 supplemental benefit, and many have not received benefits to which they are entitled. Arizona’s Unemployment Benefits System Is Still Riddled With Issues.
Now Trump is requiring an entirely new system? How long is this going to take? And can DES even do it?
The AP reports: “Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and an expert on unemployment aid, said that it could take several weeks for jobless claimants to see the enhanced benefit given the states’ difficulties in updating their unemployment systems.” “The $44 billion that the Trump administration has set aside for the unemployment aid would run out in five or six weeks, Stettner added.”
In other words, by the time DES could set up this new system, the limited funds likely will have been exhausted. That would be a waste of limited state resources to set up this new system.
Few will be helped. Evermore, one of the nation’s leading experts on unemployment, told CNN she considered the chances of this effort helping many of the newly unemployed due to Covid-19 “low.”
Lastly, according to the memorandum, an individual can only receive the $300 federal benefit if he or she first qualifies for $100 in aid from their state. Evermore said this will cut out a large group of people. “There are so many problems with people getting a benefit under this,” she said.
See the first point: the Arizona legislature would have to enact the $100 supplemental unemployment benefit, but Governor Ducey and Republicans in the Arizona legislature have declared they will do nothing to increase Arizona’s miserably low unemployment benefits. They sure as hell are not going to approve a $100 additional benefit.
In short: no one is coming to help you. You are not going to receive a $400 supplemental unemployment benefit for only a few weeks until limited funds run out.
The only way this crisis gets resolved is when the White House and Senate Republicans stop their partisan posturing and do their goddamn jobs by negotiating a deal with the House that addresses the enormous scope of this crisis.
Republicans did this to you. Remember this when you vote.