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Unemployment

HELP!! COVID-19 Took my Job! 

While many essential employees are working full time and some copious amounts of mandated overtime, many others have been laid off or forced to stay at home with their children and no longer able attend school or daycare. These employees have been offered some reprieve from Governor Ducey's March 19, 2020, executive order (herein “Order”).

In that Order, Governor Ducey reduced and waived some of the eligibility and waiting requirements for unemployment benefits. Specifically, the waived requirements include the one week waiting period, the able and available to work, actively seeking work, and daily job contact requirements. Additionally, the order makes the waiver of those requirements retroactive to March 11, 2020, Declaration of State of Emergency for Arizona. 

Unemployment benefits have been available to employees since 1932. These benefits come from unemployment insurance, which is a joint federal and state program designed to provide temporary benefit payments to employees who are out of work, at no fault of their own. To fund insurance, employers pay an unemployment tax. Each employee that meets a specific set of criteria is eligible to receive unemployment benefits and a form of compensation. 

Who Was Eligible for Unemployment Benefits Before the Executive Order?

In Arizona, unemployment benefits required applicants to meet eligibility requirements to qualify to receive benefits, followed by ongoing requirements to maintain the benefit. The eligibility requirements before the executive order are as follows. A person must:

  1. Be a resident of the United States;
  2. Be physically and mentally able to work at a job the applicant is qualified for based on experience, education, and training;
  3. Be available for work, specifically, be ready to accept full-time work when offered and report for work at the time the employer requires;
  4. Be actively seeking employment, specifically; the person must make an active continuous effort to seek work each week they claim benefit;
  5. Have worked for an employer who paid unemployment tax and the applicant must have earned at least 390 times the Arizona minimum wage in the applicants' highest-earning quarter or at least earned $7,000 in total wages in at least two quarters in the base year; and
  6. Wait one week after submission of the application.

Requirements to Remain Eligible Before the Executive Order: 

Before the Order, a person receiving unemployment benefits must have met the following requirements to continue to receive the benefits:

  1. Look for work;
  2. Keep records of contact with prospective employers, including:
    1. The date of contact,
    2. The employer's name, address, and the name of the person contacted, or website visited,
    3. The method of contact;
    4. The type of work sought; and
    5. Action taken on the date of contact.

Who Is Now Eligible Under the Executive Order: 

  1. Be a resident of the United States,
  2. Have worked for an employer who paid unemployment tax, and the applicant must have earned at least 390 times the Arizona minimum wage in the person's highest-earning quarter or at least earned $7,000 in total wages in at least two quarters in the base year.

Additionally, the requirements to stay eligible are waived indefinitely.

To see the full executive order see the click the linkhttps://azgovernor.gov/executive-orders

How Much Can a Person Receive Unemployment Benefits?

The maximum amount if payable benefits are one-third if your total base wages. The maximum weekly benefit is $240 a week, but maybe lower depending on other factors. The basis for the weekly payment amount is determined by using a myriad of factors that can be found at

https://des.az.gov/featured-story/how-apply-unemployment-benefits

Potential Unemployment Benefit Pitfalls to Avoid 

  1. Overpayment

Unemployment benefits were put in place to service help employees who were at work at no fault of their own. However, unemployment benefits were not designed to live off of or be a second stream of income for families after the employee has gone back to work; thus, the government will mandate repayment of any benefits that were paid out that the employee was not entitled to.

An overpayment can happen because a person who receives the benefit fills out the application wrong, fails to report money earned while receiving the benefit, or failed to report the start of gainful employment.

If the recipient continues to receive unemployment benefits, it is no longer eligible or receives more money than they were entitled to; the recipient must repay the overpayment to the Arizona Department of Economic Security. Furthermore, if a recipient fails to repay the overpayment, they may be subject to a lawsuit by the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

A potential overpayment should not stop someone filing or receiving unemployment benefits; however, it should make the person vigilant about updating the Arizona Department of Economic Security about any money earned while receiving the benefit or the immediate reporting of gainful employment.

It is imperative the system is used for what it's designed for and that an applicant continually and immediately updates the Arizona Department of Economic Security as soon as any changes take place.

  1. Taxes 

Last, unemployment benefit is money that does not have to be repaid unless an overpayment occurred; however, the money received from the benefit is still counted as income for tax purposes. At the end of the year, the state will issue the benefit recipient, to the benefit recipient's last known mailing address, and the Internal Revenue Service a 1099-G. The benefit recipient must claim the income received under the unemployment benefit on their tax returns for that year.

How to Apply for Unemployment:

To apply, go to https://des.az.gov/services/employment/unemployment-individual/apply-ui-benefits and click on the blue “Click here to apply” box. The website will then walk you through the application process. In order to complete the application, you will need your:

  1. Correct legal name;
  2. Date of birth;
  3. Social security number;
  4. Full address;
  5. Entire 18-month employment history;
  6. Names of the employers during that time frame;
  7. Dates of employment;
  8. Most recent employer's address;
  9. Last Date of Work; and
  10. Vacation Pay, sick, or pension payments you received after being laid off.

It is very important to check double check your information prior to submission to avoid any mistakes or overpayments.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. We will continue to bring you new information on many other topics, including stimulus checks, auto loans, home mortgages, and other topics effecting you due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Questions or Comments:

If you have any questions about the above information, please contact our office at 602-910-7525 or through our contact form. Additionally, if there are any other topics you would like covered or legal questions you have related to COVID-19, please submit your questions or suggestions via our “Contact Us” form.

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