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Unemployed Advocates Sue Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey for Cutting Federal Pandemic Benefits

— September 7, 2021

The lawsuit accuses Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, of breaking state law by making a unilateral decision to cut off federal benefits.

A new lawsuit claims that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, violated state law when he made a unliteral decision to terminate unemployed workers’ access to federal pandemic relief.

According, the lawsuit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on Friday.

The complaint alleges that Gov. Ducey, and the State of Arizona, are bound by law to accept and disburse the maximum unemployment benefits offered by the federal government.

This law should have protected funds bundled in the American Rescue Plan.

The American Rescue Plan extended several pandemic-related unemployment programs, including a $300-per-week, federally-funded boost for persons receiving unemployment benefits for pandemic-related reasons.

However, Unemployed Workers United attorneys claim that Gov. Ducey made a unilateral decision to deprive state residents of further federal unemployment funds.

Gov. Ducey, says, cut the state’s participation in the federal pandemic unemployment programs on July 10, and left state workers with a weekly benefits cap of $240—the second-lowest in the United States.

Unemployed Workers United is now asking the Maricopa County Superior Court to reimburse everyone who lost their benefits.

An illustration of the novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), responsible for COVID-19. Image by CDC, via
An illustration of the novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), responsible for COVID-19. Image by CDC, via

Attorney Paul Gattone told that more than 100,000 Arizonans are still collecting benefits.

All of these workers, says Gattone, should have been getting the extra $300-per-week booster from the federal government.

However, Gov. Ducey has defended his decision. Like other Republican politicians, Ducey has framed enhanced unemployment as detrimental to the state’s economy. Gov. Ducey suggested that many Arizonans were refusing to re-enter the workforce because they preferred to take unemployment benefits.

Ducey further noted that the restaurants and hospitality industries—both known for paying employees below minimum wage, and expecting generous customers to make up the difference—are facing a dire, unprecedented labor shortage.

“The hospitality industry in Arizona, a critical part of our economy, was perhaps the hardest-hit sector [by the pandemic,” Ducey press aide C.J. Karamargin said in May, shortly after the governor announced his decision to terminate unemployment benefits beginning in July. “They cannot find enough workers for the jobs they have to fill. And this plan is aimed at helping them fill those positions.”

Nevertheless, Gov. Ducey was generous, at least compared to his Republican peers. While Ducey did cut off unemployed workers’ lifeline, he did promise that anyone collecting benefits would receive a one-time, $2,000 bonus if they accepted a full-time job by September 6th.

Arizona also announced that it would offer limited child-care assistance and a free semester of community college for people returning to the work force.

“In Arizona, we’re going to use federal money to encourage people to work,” Ducey said earlier this summer. “Instead of paying people not to work.”

However, worker advocacy groups have filed lawsuits against many conservative governors who terminated unemployment benefits early. Preliminary court rulings in some states, including Maryland, have favored workers.


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