Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) website accepting claims after rollout delay
SURPRISE, AZ — It's been a long 24 hours for Ken McCormick, of Surprise. At 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the self-employed barber was in front of his computer waiting for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) website to rollout as promised.
The PUA program is designed specifically to process unemployment claims for self-employed, part-time, freelancers, and others who do not qualify for regular unemployment.
By 6:32 p.m. the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) tweeted that the program had been "temporarily delayed."
Florida-based contractor Geographic Solutions designed the software at a cost of nearly $2 million.
DES spokesman Brett Bezio sent ABC15 a statement saying in part, "Building a brand-new system is rarely without incident, and we did encounter a technical issue our teams worked quickly to resolve."
"At about 2 o'clock this morning they sent me a link," Ken said. The website was open but he still couldn't get in.
"You had to put in your user name and password," he said. But after he created one, "It said it's no good, it's no good, it's no good."
Around 10 a.m., "I finally started to be able to fill out my claim," he said. Though by that time he says the username and password were no longer required.
"So what happened from when they sent out the emails last night to 10 o'clock this morning? I don't have any idea," he said.
Once in, there was a new set of obstacles. In the middle of filing his claim, he was stuck. "If I hit cancel now I'm really gonna be in trouble," he said while we tried to help him navigate through.
The instructions were telling him to click the "next" button to move on to the next page. The problem is the only options were "save," "cancel," and "my dashboard." Hitting save only refreshed the computer screen.
Undeterred, Ken started the process over. "At least I've gotten in there now so I know what I'm going to spend the rest of my day doing," he said.
Because after waiting nearly two months, what's another two hours? "I don't have a problem doing that at all. At least now the system is working."
As of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, DES said an estimated 39,000 claims had been received by the new PUA website.
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Arizona Back to Work
Arizona’s Back To Work program assists eligible workers returning to the workforce. The package includes provisions that offer child care assistance, support for individuals to acquire a GED or community college credits, return to work bonuses and more.
Back to Work Bonus
Arizona will stop taking the federal government’s pandemic unemployment benefits effective Saturday, July 10. Arizona will instead set aside $300 million of federal resources to offer first-come, first-serve Back to Work bonuses to eligible workers who rejoin the workforce. Workers who return with a full-time job will receive a $2,000 bonus and those who return to work with a part-time job will receive $1,000. To receive the bonus, workers must leave the unemployment insurance program and complete 10 weeks of work with an employer.
- Must have applied for unemployment benefits before May 13
- Must earn $25 an hour or less, equivalent to a $52,000 yearly salary
- Must begin working by September 6, 2021
Additional guidelines and eligibility here
Notice: Make sure to maintain unemployment work search requirements compliance.
Unemployment Important Links
Join everybody else who is taking advantage of our special online program to safely maintain their work search requirements. Our program allows maintaining job search requirements by taking online career workshops. Digital certificates generated instantly after completing each workshop, which you can download for your records, and they are also backed up on our servers. Join today and remain in compliance with works search requirements before it is too late!
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Our highest priority is keeping Arizonans healthy, safe, and economically secure.
Arizonans: the fastest way to get assistance or info. from our office is to email [email protected].
UPDATE: On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law, providing essential public health and economic resources to Arizona and the country. Among other important provisions, the new law:
- extends the $300 in enhanced unemployment benefits, also known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), through the benefit week ending before September 6, 2021.
- Unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program have also been extended to September 6, 2021.
- The new law extends benefits to PUA recipients a maximum 79 weeks, up from the previous 50-week limit. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which pays extra weeks of state benefits to the long-term unemployed, would get up to 53 weeks of benefits instead of 24 (on top of what Arizona allows, a maximum of 26 weeks).
The new American Rescue Plan law provides limited tax relief for taxpayers who received unemployment benefits in 2020 and with income below $150,000. For these taxpayers, the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits (or $20,400 for those couples filing jointly) received in 2020 will be excluded from federal taxation. For those who have already paid taxes on the first $10,200 in UI benefits through withholding or if you have already filed your 2020 federal income taxes, the IRS will take steps in the spring and summer to make the appropriate change to your return, which may result in a refund. The first refunds are expected to be made in May and will continue into the summer. More information is available on the IRS website HERE.
The IRS has worked with the tax return preparation software industry to reflect these updates so people who choose to file electronically will be able to see these changes automatically when filing and entering information about unemployment benefits. See New Exclusion of up to $10,200 of Unemployment Compensation for information and examples. For others, instructions and an updated worksheet about the exclusion have been posted to IRS.gov/form1040. These instructions can assist taxpayers who have not yet filed to prepare returns correctly.
More information as it becomes available from the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) will be on their website. As of Friday, March 12, 2021, DES’ website has the following message: On March 11, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) was signed into law. While DES works to implement the extension of benefits in accordance with U.S. Department of Labor guidelines, please continue to file weekly certifications. You do not need to reapply for benefits. Per the federal law, individuals who have exhausted benefits will not be eligible for weeks of benefits prior to March 14, 2021. Certifications for the first week of the extension can be filed and will be payable beginning March 21, 2021. DES is evaluating the legislation and we expect additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor. We will provide guidance to individuals impacted by this legislation as we have additional details.
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE (UI)
We understand that this has been a very disruptive time for many workers whose businesses have temporarily closed or seen a drop in their income. Any Arizonans who have lost their jobs, been furloughed, or had their hours reduced as a result of the coronavirus outbreak may be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits from the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES).
For more information, please go to DES’ FAQ pageHERE.
All of the enhanced FPUC unemployment benefits (the previous $600 or current $300) are taxable, but do not count towards determining AHCCCS or KidsCare eligibility. The other UI programs (including regular state UI benefits and the PUA benefits) do count towards AHCCCS or KidsCare eligibility).
Additionally, securing part time work while receiving unemployment benefits does not automatically make you ineligible. It may, however, impact your weekly benefit amount. When filing your weekly claim you must report all earnings. Earnings over $30 in a single week are deducted from that week’s benefit amount. For example, if you qualify for the maximum weekly benefit amount of $240 and you receive $180 in earnings from working that week, $150 of your earnings would be deducted from the maximum benefit amount and you would receive $90.
People can apply for unemployment benefits through the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES). To apply, click the link HERE.
For a full explanation of eligibility for unemployment insurance in Arizona, clickHERE.
Filing Weekly Claims With DES:
PLEASE REMEMBER, Arizona DES is requiring all UI claimants (regardless of which UI program you qualify under) to verify their identities in order to continue filing weekly certifications. More information can be found on the DES websiteHERE.
Given the high volume of applications, Arizonans may face delays in getting their application to DES processed. Those who believe they are eligible for the UI program, must file weekly claims to continue to receive benefits (even if your initial claim is still pending, you must file a weekly claim to receive benefits for that week). If you are later found on appeal to be eligible, you will only be paid for the retroactive weeks in which you submitted weekly claims. UI claimants can file weekly claims HERE. More information about filing weekly claims can be found HERE.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Unemployment (PUA):
The new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was passed as a part of the CARES Act, and extends UI benefits to those who traditionally would not have been eligible for UI benefits in Arizona.
Eligibility: If you already applied for unemployment insurance from DES and were denied, you may be eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Insurance program if you:
- are determined to be monetarily ineligible according to the state
- have exhausted all rights to such benefits,
- are self-employed,
- are seeking part-time employment,
- lack sufficient work history, or
- otherwise do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits under state or federal law.
To apply for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance, click HERE. To learn more, visit the DES PUA FAQ website HERE.
DES and ID verification for PUA claimants:
Beginning December 5, 2020, the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) announced it would require all Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claimants to verify their identities using ID.me, a safe and secure identification portal, before they will be eligible to receive or continue to receive benefits.
According to DES, PUA claimants will be notified through direct messaging within the PUA portal and through email in advance of the next phase to provide them ample time to prepare the necessary documentation. Claimants must use the unique ID.me link sent directly to them, as using a shared link will not allow the claimant to verify their identity. After the claimant has successfully verified their identity, they can continue filing their weekly certification. For claimants who are unable to verify their identity through ID.me, they should contact DES right away to verify their identity with another method. Claimants who have already verified their identities through ID.me will not have to go through the process a second time. More information can be found on the DES website HERE.
More information on PUA eligibility criteria and required documentation can be found at: https://des.az.gov/pua
Returning to Work - DES Guidance for Employers and Employees
This information is taken from the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s website HERE.
- Employers should continue to encourage telework, whenever possible and feasible with business operations. If possible, employers should return their workforce in phases, close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact and enforce physical distancing protocols. Employers should also strongly consider special accommodations for personnel who are members of a vulnerable population. To read the CDC’s guidelines for re-opening safely and smartly, please go HERE.
- Employees should return to work as soon as employers safely resume. Federal and state law requires that employees receiving unemployment benefits accept offers of “suitable work” made in good faith. Refusing to work could result in unemployment benefits being discontinued. Certain exceptions may apply.
- All individuals should consult with their employer, their physician, and DES directly on their personal circumstances. These will be decisions made by DES.
- To read DES guidance on returning to work, please visit the DES website HERE.
Read about Governor Ducey’s executive order and administrative action aimed at providing certainty and economic relief for those facing financial hardship because of COVID-19 HERE.
DES has A GUIDE TO ARIZONA BENEFITS for individuals who qualify for regular unemployment insurance.
DES also has a PUA CLAIMANT GUIDE, which includes step by step directions and screenshots to walk individuals through the claims filing process.
Federal coronavirus-response legislation: click HERE.
Specific actions Kyrsten is taking on behalf of Arizona: click HERE.
Visit our main resources page: sinema.senate.gov/corona.
EN ESPAÑOLSours: https://www.sinema.senate.gov/corona/unemployment
AZDES: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance requires proof of employment or you could face disqualification
AZDES: PUA requires proof of employment or you could face disqualification
PHOENIX - If you received Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, also known as PUA, on or after Dec. 27, 2020, you need to provide the Arizona Department of Economic Security with some documents.
AZDES says you are now required by federal law to submit proof of employment, self-employment, or proof that you planned to begin working, but weren't able to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the documentation isn't submitted, you will be disqualified from the program and required to pay back any benefits you received after Dec. 26, 2020.
For those that have been notified about this requirement already, but have not yet submitted the required documents, you could be disqualified as soon as May 28, 2021.
VIDEO: What is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?
AZDES states the types of acceptable documentation for proof of employment include: paycheck stubs, earnings and leave statements showing the employer’s name and address W-2 forms.
Proof of self-employment includes, but isn't limited to: State or Federal employer identification numbers, business licenses, tax returns, business receipts, signed affidavits from people who can verify your self-employment.
To show proof of planned commencement of self-employment: business licenses, State or Federal employer identification numbers, written business plans, lease agreements.
"All documents provided should be from the most recent tax year that ended prior to the date you filed your initial PUA application. You do not need all of the documents listed above; only those relevant to your work history," stated officials.
AZDES says the easiest way to submit your documents is online using the PUA claimant portal.
If you're unable to submit your documents by the deadline, call AZDES at 1-877-600-2722 to request an extension.
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More Arizona headlines:
DES sends $350M in unemployment payments to 165,000 people
The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) announced today the launch of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for individuals who were previously ineligible for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, including self-employed, independent contractors, and gig economy workers.
DES is mailing checks today to 165,000 individuals who filed an initial claim for benefits between February 2, 2020, and May 2, 2020, and did not meet the criteria for regular UI, but do meet the eligibility criteria for PUA. These individuals will receive an initial payment representing the minimum PUA benefit amount ($117 per week) plus the additional $600 in weekly benefits added by the CARES Act. These first payments will include three-weeks’ worth of benefits.
“The Department of Economic Security has worked around the clock to stand up this new program and get these benefits to Arizonans faster,” said Governor Ducey. “Getting assistance to those in need will continue to be a priority as we work to gradually and safely re-energize Arizona’s economy.”
“DES recognizes how critical this funding is for many individuals who do not qualify for regular unemployment insurance,” said Tom Betlach, from the Office of the Director. “We are making these initial payments totaling more than $350 million to get money into the pockets of Arizonans as quickly as possible.”
Pandemic unemployment benefits are available for weeks of unemployment beginning February 2, 2020 through the week ending December 26, 2020. PUA provides a benefit ranging from $117 to $240 per week, for up to 39 weeks. Individuals receiving PUA benefits will also receive an additional $600 weekly in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits between the weeks of March 29, 2020 and July 25, 2020.
Beginning at 6:00 p.m. on May 12, 2020, applicants will be able to access the PUA system to provide information needed to confirm ongoing eligibility (or, for new applicants, determine initial eligibility) and to determine the weekly benefit amounts. Over the weekend, DES notified workers who previously applied for UI and were denied for being monetarily ineligible about the additional information needed, and those individuals will get an updated communication today with additional information. If an individual does not know whether their claim was denied for being “monetarily ineligible” or for some other reason, he or she can check the status of their claim online by logging into their account on the DES claims website.
Per federal requirements, new applicants may need to file a regular UI claim based on their particular circumstances. If they are denied for regular UI benefits, beginning May 12, they can then file a PUA claim.
Beginning on May 12, individuals will also receive a formal notice from DES about PUA, and additional specifics on which documentation can be used to determine ongoing eligibility (which includes but is not limited to 2019 tax information) will be provided on the PUA application site. Both new applicants and individuals who were previously denied will submit documentation through www.azui.com (File a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Claim). Federal requirements for PUA use wages and/or self-employment information from calendar year 2019 to determine the PUA benefit. Specifics on which documentation can be used to determine ongoing eligibility (which includes but is not limited to 2019 tax information) will also be provided on the PUA application site.
Beginning May 17, 2020, individuals must also file weekly certifications for each week for which they are claiming eligibility for benefits, including retroactive certifications back to their last date of employment. Individuals will have to file certifications for each week for which they are claiming eligibility for benefits in order to receive payments. Individuals who have already received the initial phase of payment will not see the option to certify for the three weeks for which they have already been paid.
The fastest way to receive PUA benefits will be through direct deposit. Individuals can provide financial information to register for direct deposit through the PUA system. If they do not register for direct deposit, they will receive an Electronic Payment Card (EPC) through Bank of America.
Visit https://des.az.gov/pua for updates and additional information.
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