Arizona will again require people to look for work to receive unemployment benefits

Ryan Randazzo
Arizona Republic
The Arizona Department of Economic Security will enforce the reinstated job application requirement the week of Sunday, May 23, according to the Governor's Office.

People who want to collect unemployment benefits in Arizona will once again need to actively search for work to get them following an executive order Gov. Doug Ducey issued Monday.

In March 2020, Ducey waived the so-called "work search" requirement because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made it hard or impossible for people to find work as businesses largely shut down.

But with employers having trouble filling some jobs and the relative ease of obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination today, people will again need to be in the job market to collect public benefits in Arizona.

The Arizona Department of Economic Security will enforce the reinstated requirement the week of Sunday, May 23, according to the Governor's Office. The department said Monday it will reach out to people receiving benefits to let them know when they need to begin meeting the job-search requirements.

“A year out from the start of the pandemic, jobs and vaccines are readily available,” Ducey said Monday in a statement rescinding his previous order to waive the requirement. “Arizonans are ready to get back to work. Our economy is booming, jobs need filling, more than 2 million Arizonans are fully vaccinated, and vaccination appointments are available to anyone who wants one.”

About 200,000 Arizonans were collecting jobless benefits as of the week of April 24, according to the Department of Economic Security. That includes people on traditional unemployment and those getting special benefits set up by Congress to pay benefits to people who would not normally qualify but lost work because of the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Labor guidelines require the same work search requirements for "pandemic unemployment assistance" or PUA, a program set up because of the pandemic, as those used for traditional unemployment, according to the Department of Economic Security. So people in both programs will see the requirement. 

Those people still can collect benefits until their eligibility runs out, but they will need to show they are searching for work like beneficiaries did before the pandemic.

What restoring the requirement means

The requirement means that people getting benefits make a "systematic and sustained effort to seek work each week," according to DES spokeswoman Tasya Peterson.

"This means making at least one job contact per day on four different days of the week," Peterson said via email. "A claimant’s work search should include trying to find work that they are suited for by experience, education and/or training. An adequate search for work is a sincere, consistent effort to find a job and is not just an attempt to remain eligible for benefits. Claimants should follow up general inquiries by making personal visits or by submitting applications and resumes."

Things that qualify for searching for work include:

  • Registering with and contacting a union hiring or placement facility.
  • Registering with a placement facility of a professional organization.
  • Checking back with former employers who may have openings.
  • Registering with a placement facility at a school, college or university for work.
  • Taking a test for or applying for openings in civil service or a government agency.
  • Registering for suitable work with a private employment agency or an employer’s placement facility.

People applying for benefits will need to provide the date of their contacts, the employer's name and address, the person or website contacted, method of contact, type of work sought and action taken by the applicant.

Also, everyone making claims will be required to be registered with Arizona Job Connection to get benefits.

Hotels, restaurants struggle to find workers

The hospitality industry is particularly troubled by the inability to hire back workers who were laid off or furloughed last year as the pandemic shut down most leisure travel. Some of those workers are reluctant to return because of the expanded jobless benefits, while others have found better jobs and still others can't return to work because they have young children at home learning remotely.

Ducey channeled President Ronald Reagan in his statement, stating that "the best social program is a job.”

“This statement rings true today," Ducey said. "Unemployment benefits are still available to Arizonans who need them, but now that plenty of jobs are available, those receiving the benefits should be actively looking for work.”

Chamber, tourism officials like change

Tucson Metro Chamber President and CEO Amber Smith supported the governor's action to help employers fill positions and get their cash registers moving again.

“Southern Arizona businesses made many adjustments and sacrifices to weather the economic effects of the pandemic,” Smith said in a statement on Monday. “Businesses cannot afford to weather another storm unable to fill positions. Now that vaccines are out far and wide, many businesses are scaling back up looking for employees. It’s important that we work to meet this job demand and get the word out that a variety of jobs are available.”

Arizona Office of Tourism Director Debbie Johnson also supported the governor's move, saying travelers are returning to Arizona and creating a demand for workers that the hospitality industry can't meet today.

"With this increase in demand, the tourism industry has jobs to fill to keep up," she said. "I’m encouraged to see how far we’ve come from this time last year, and I’m looking forward to the return of strong tourism employment in Arizona.”

Reach reporter Ryan Randazzo at ryan.randazzo@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.

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