Gov. Doug Ducey has no plans to use state resources to make up for the fact that more than 430,000 Arizonans will see their jobless benefits cut by more than half within weeks.
“It’s on Congress,’’ the governor said Sept. 10 when asked about the rapidly depleting federal account, which is providing unemployed Arizonans with an extra $300 a week.
Michael Wisehart, the director of the state Department of Economic Security, said recently that it could be the last week for the extra payments. And he said when the end comes it will be sudden, with no advance warning.
That will leave Arizonans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own—some due to Ducey’s policies shuttering or curtailing certain businesses—with a maximum of $240 a week.
On one hand, the governor said the state does have “money in the bank.’’
“We have been financially responsible,’’ Ducey said. But he called questions by Capitol Media Services about the state filling in some, if not all, of the lost benefits “hypothetical.”
The answer, he said, is congressional action.
And if that doesn’t happen? Ducey’s message to unemployed Arizonans was simple.
“Plan ahead,’’ the governor said.
He also brushed aside questions of whether he could live on $240 a week if there is no deal.
“This is on Congress,’’ Ducey said.
It was an executive action by Trump that allocated $44 million in August to provide the extra $300 a week in benefits after Congress failed to reach an agreement about continuing the $600 weekly bonus. Ducey put Arizona’s share of that at $725 million.
The Republican-controlled Senate recently did consider a bill with funds for $300 supplemental benefits. But it is considered dead on arrival because Democrats want $600 payments, hazard pay for essential workers and a second round of stimulus checks.
Arizona does have the money.
Aides to the governor said Ducey has set aside $400 million in cash from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, some of that money he acknowledged he did not divide up among Arizona cities, towns and counties.
Ducey, however, has some other ideas about how he wants to spend those dollars. That includes providing some financial relief for businesses who are facing higher unemployment taxes by the end of the year.
The 430,000 Arizonans now collecting benefits are 16% more than the 371,100 for the week ending Aug. 8.