I am pleased to introduce our new DES blog, which will regularly feature Departmental news and developments as it relates to our clients, community and stakeholders. This initiative will build upon the transparency of information to which we have committed as exhibited in the launch of data dashboards for several programs, including Unemployment Insurance, Adult Protective Services and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. In order to stay informed, we encourage you to subscribe to email alerts, which you can do via the link at the bottom of this entry.
The COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Within one week, millions of people sheltered in place bracing themselves and their families for the unknown. In an attempt to slow virus transmission, economies around the world shutdown and forced millions out of work. DES positioned its structure and staff to prepare for the deluge of requests for assistance in order to fulfill our mission to provide critical services to Arizonans in need.
Today, we are in a much better situation. The economy is opening back up, restrictions have been lifted, businesses are hiring and Arizonans are going back to work. It’s been just over one year since Arizona launched the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, one of several new unemployment assistance programs created by the federal government to support those who have had their livelihood disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, we are looking at a far different economic landscape, with opportunities available in all industries as businesses reopen their doors and the State continues to expand immunization.
As a result of the economic progress, Governor Doug Ducey rescinded Executive Order 2020-11, reinstating the requirement to search for work beginning May, 23, 2021. This means that in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits, all claimants must complete work search activities.
In order to help make the transition back to employment easier for individuals who have been out of the workforce for some time, Governor Ducey and DES announced Back To Work programs that provide new assistance and support for individuals to take this critical step forward. This includes:
- Return to Work Bonuses, whereby eligible workers will receive a one-time payment after successfully completing ten weeks of work. Individuals can apply to receive the $2,000 Return to Work Bonus (RTWB) after working the equivalent of eight 40-hour weeks (320 hours) or more over the first ten weeks since returning to work (after May 13, 2021) OR eligible individuals can apply to receive the $1,000 RTWB after working the equivalent of eight 20-hour weeks (160 hours) or more over the first ten weeks since returning to work (after May 13, 2021). DES is scheduled to launch the program portal July 10, 2021, for individuals to apply for a RTWB.
- Three months of child care for eligible returning workers. To be eligible, an individual must:
- have filed for the state’s unemployment and pandemic unemployment assistance programs on or before May 15, 2021
- be currently employed (part-time or full-time)
- earn $25 per hour or less (equivalent to a yearly salary of $52,000)
- be a parent in need of child care assistance for their children ages 12 and younger
Individuals can apply for the Child Care for Returning Workers Program by visiting the DES Child Care Assistance website anytime between June 1, 2021 through September 6, 2021.
- Education incentives in the form of continuing education scholarships to help individuals upskill and receive the credentials they need for a thriving career. The State will provide $7.5 million for community college continuing education scholarships for currently unemployed workers who are eligible for the RTWB — as well as $6 million for GED test preparation and exam fees for eligible workers without a high school diploma. Additional details about the education scholarships will be published on our website as they become available.
More details regarding the Back to Work programs can be found on our website.
With this new program, Arizona will stop taking the federal government’s supplemental pandemic unemployment benefit effective Saturday, July 10, 2021, and we are thrilled to supplement our existing workforce services and child care assistance with these new programs to help individuals to get back on the path to self-sufficiency and meet the demands of Arizona’s robust economy.
Additionally, DES collaborates with [email protected] to provide employment services that job seekers can access from home as they safely prepare to return to Arizona’s workforce. DES offers virtual appointments for employment services including resume, interview, and job search assistance online at workappointment.azdes.gov or by calling 1-833-762-8196.
Our teams look forward to continuing to work with you so that, together, we can help Arizona return stronger from the pandemic. Thank you for your partnership and support.