PUA Unemployment Benefits Update

May 12!   The good news  for those awaiting Unemployment Benefits …  

In Arizona, May will bring flowers, and also dollars.  cactus_bloom.JPG
Payments for PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) will begin the week of May 12th.  Of course, that is also bad news because that means over 2 more weeks of waiting. 

The better news is that the DES Director confirms the payments will be retroactive to the time you filed.  If you filed for UI at the end of March, you should get 6 weeks’ worth (or so)  of weekly payments,  plus the checks going forward. Individual situations may differ, but that's the general direction. 

More good news...

More good news:

  • The benefits last for 39 weeks,  or whenever you get a job again.  (That is 13 weeks better than the usual Unemployment Benefits that last only 26 weeks such as before the pandemic.) 
  • The benefit amount will be up to $840 per week.  If you are eligible, you might get between $117 - $240 per week from the state of Arizona, plus the $600 from the federal CARES Act. 

Click this link for the news release from DES. 

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions:   

Q: Health Insurance? “When I lost my job, I lost my health insurance.  What do I do now?”

A:   You may apply for Medical Assistance (AHCCCS).  Click here to get started.   The sooner you apply,  the sooner you can get covered.  Even if AHCCCS requires you to wait 2 months before you are eligible, advocates for families have recommended that people apply for AHCCCS right after they apply for UI.    

Q: “NO WAGES”   “I drive for Uber  (or I work as a hair stylist),  and DES notified me I am not eligible for normal Unemployment Insurance because I have no wages.  But I reported my wages from Uber.  Why am I not eligible?

A:  The income you make from Uber (or as an independent contractor hair stylist)  is not called, “wages.”  That is self-employment income because you are not an employee of Uber (or the hair salon).   Unemployment Insurance is only for employees because employers and employees pay into the Unemployment Insurance fund, but self-employed contractors do not.     Would you like to contribute to a system like Unemployment Insurance for Independent Contractors?  There is no such program in Arizona yet,  but if the gig economy continues to grow,  we should consider creating one.  Reply to me to let me know what you think.


Q: Max $240  “Why is the maximum Unemployment Compensation (normally) only $240 in Arizona?”

A:  It would be $334 if it were adjusted for inflation,  from the time it was last set in 2004.  Generally, unemployment compensation is intended to be about half of your weekly wages, even if you make more than minimum wage.  However, this amount is so low that it comes out to $12/ hour at half time. It should be increased, in my opinion.  The legislature needs to address this problem and fix it.   


Q: $600  “For regular Unemployment Insurance, when will I get my $600 from the federal government?”

A:  Those $600 payments from the federal CARES Act began being sent out to claimants the week of April 14th.


Q: Both employee and self-employed  “I was laid off from my full-time job as an employee, so I should qualify for Unemployment Compensation.  But I also receive income from a job as a free-lancer. The free-lancing work has decreased a lot.  Am I eligible for both UC and PUA?” 

A:  I am still waiting to a definitive answer to this question,  and several others.  In general, you subtract $30 from your income when you apply for UC, and if the remaining amount is less than your UC benefit, then you get Arizona UC plus the CARES $600.  Rough example:  No income as an employee.  $200 per week as a free-lance writer.  Your wages as an employee qualified you for $240 of UC. 
Your UC might be in the ballpark of:   240- [200-30] = $70 weekly benefit maybe,  plus the $600 from the Cares Act =  $670 weekly benefit.  

   You can find more information at these webpages: