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.
“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.
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.
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 email@example.com or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.