Unemployment Insurance Benefits – FAQ

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 16 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last three weeks. Approximately 350,000 claims filled in Arizona alone. This unprecedented number has challenged the government at both Federal and State level with the unemployment insurance system. Coincidentally, over the past week, HR Wise llc has received several questions regarding unemployment insurance benefits as they relate to COVID-19. Our Client Human Resources Manager, Marwa Morsi extracted this information from the Arizona Department of Arizona Economic Security website, and we hope you find it helpful.


Most frequent questions and answers

Whether you receive Unemployment Insurance benefits and how much you’re entitled to each week depends on how much you earned during your base period. All states have similar wage requirements which are determined by the laws in each state.To qualify for benefits in Arizona, you must have worked for an employer who paid unemployment tax and you must have earned:

  • At least 390 times the Arizona minimum wage in your highest earning quarter and the total of the other three quarters must equal at least one half of the amount in your high quarter. For example, if you made $5000 in your highest quarter you need to have earned a total of $2500 within the remaining three quarters combined
  • Or at least $7000 in total wages in at least two quarters of the base period, with wages in one quarter equal to $5987.50 or more.

If you have Arizona wages and also worked in another state, or currently reside in Arizona and have earnings from employers in two or more other states (within the base period), you may choose to combine these wages to establish monetary eligibility. If you were employed in more than one state at any time during the current base period, you may have the option of:

  • Filing a claim against any state in which you were employed using only the wages from that state, or
  • Filing a claim against any state in which you were employed, using the wages from all states in which you earned wages.

State unemployment laws, weekly benefit amounts and eligibility requirements vary between states.Which option is best for you will depend upon the laws in each state where you worked. If all of your employment during the base period was in a state other than Arizona, you must file a claim against that state.

Your weekly Unemployment Insurance Benefit Amount (WBA) is calculated on wages you earned from employers who paid Unemployment Tax to the State of Arizona.  The WBA is 4% of the wages paid in the highest quarter of your base period.The current maximum WBA is $240.

If you are disqualified/denied benefits, you have the right to file an appeal. You must file your appeal within an established time frame. Your employer may also appeal a determination if he/she does not agree with the determination regarding your eligibility.

Most likely, yes.The DES encourages the following employees impacted by COVID -19 to apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits:

  • Individuals whose employer has permanently or temporarily ceased or drastically reduced operations due to COVID-19 resulting in a reduction of wages;
  • Individuals who, duo to requirements that the individual be quarantines, are separated from employment and do not have any available paid leave even if the individual has an expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over;
  • Individuals who leave employment due to a risk of exposure or infection and are a member of a population that is particularly susceptible to COVID-19;
  • Individuals who leave employment to care for a family member who has been infected with COVID-19; or
  • Individuals who for any other scenario are separated from work for reasons related to COVID-19

Possibly, the CARES Act created a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for individuals that are self-employed, contract workers, those are ineligible for state unemployment benefits or have exhausted benefits. Arizona is currently working on the implementation of this new program. Employees are encouraged to file their applications now for processing as soon as the program in implemented in Arizona. 

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed a federal stimulus package known as the CARES Act. This Act includes the temporary Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act set out in Title II, Subtitle A. Section 2102 of the CARES Act creates a new temporary federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).  PUA is a new program that provides benefits to individuals who are not otherwise eligible for Unemployment Insurance. DES is making changes to its system to process benefit calculations and eligibility determinations for PUA and will attempt to reach out to clients if additional information is available regarding their eligibility.  It provides benefits to covered individuals. Covered individuals are not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits under state or Federal law or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).  Again, Arizona is currently working on the implementation of this new program. 

This includes individuals who:

  • 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 or PEUC.

In general, PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to qualifying individuals who are otherwise able to work and available for work within the meaning of applicable Arizona state statute, except that they are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to one of the COVID-19 related reasons identified in the CARES Act. Through July 25, 2020, individuals receiving PUA benefits may also receive the additional $600 payment provided under the (FPUC) program if they are eligible for benefits for the week.   

No. DES is temporarily suspending the “actively seeking work” requirement.  What this means is that for the duration of the emergency declaration as individual will no longer be required to work and apply for other employment while collecting unemployment insurance benefits. 

Yes. The Department is temporarily suspending the waiting week.

Individuals should apply as soon as they know that their employment and income will be affected by COVID-19. The factors of each circumstance are important. If the employer required the individual to stay home, did not offer telework, and was not offering compensation, the individual might be eligible for benefits if they meet the monetary and weekly eligibility criteria.

These benefits will begin to pay out starting the week of April 13. Retroactive payments will also be made for the weeks starting March 29. Individuals will not have to submit additional paperwork to qualify, it will be applied on top of their existing benefits.

The CARES Act allows for up to 39 weeks of benefits to claimants. Under the regular UI program, claimants are eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits. These benefits can be extended an additional 13 weeks under the CARES Act. In addition, claimants that are not eligible for the regular UI program or have exhausted their benefits under the program may be eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for up to 39 weeks inclusive of the weeks they received regular UI benefits.

If your wages have been reduced as a result of COVID-19, you may file for benefits at www.AZUI.com. Depending on your individual circumstance and amount of gross wages you have earned, you may be eligible for benefits.  As in the case with all Unemployment insurance claims, applicants are required to file weekly claims confirming they continue to meet the requirements to receive UI.  This includes an opportunity to report wages.  Applicants must file a claim every week he or she in unemployed, or underemployed.

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