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$2000 return to work bonuses in Arizona: who can get it and how to claim it

Arizona is using a two-pronged strategy to get the unemployed back in the state’s workforce by cutting federal unemployment but offering rewards for work.

$2000 return to work bonuses in Arizona: who can get it and how to claim it
ANDREW KELLY REUTERS

States across the US are dealing with shortages of workers to fill jobs that are available as businesses and the nation reopen. One approach has been to cancel participation in federal pandemic unemployment compensation programs or reimplement work-search requirements. A handful of states are taking a different tack and providing stimulus to get back to work.

Montana was the first state to announce that it would cease to participate in the federal unemployment programs set up under the CARES Act at the start of the pandemic. Those programs have been blamed by some in the business community for the lack of people willing to take jobs that are available. Now 24 other states have followed suit, but only three are both ending the federal unemployment payments and offering signing bonuses to those who transition to the workforce.

Arizona “Back to Work” incentives to take a job

Residents of Arizona who were collecting unemployment compensation when the state announced that it would cease taking Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation were offered more than just a one-time bonus. In addition to the $2,000 Return-to-Work bonuses, the state is also offering those who accept a job offer childcare, scholarships and rental assistance.

“Now that employers in all sectors are hiring, we’re ready to transition and enhance our assistance to families, job seekers and employers. We are committed to ensuring the long-term strength of Arizona’s economy to provide self-sufficiency for Arizona’s families,” Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) Director Michael Wisehart said.

Who is eligible for a $2,000 Return-to-Work bonus?

The Arizona “Back to Work” program was announced on 13 May and only those who had already filed for unemployment benefits prior to that date will be eligible. The Return-to-Work bonuses will be available to individuals that make $25 or less per hour, which is equivalent to a yearly salary of $52,000, at the new position. It will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, the state has set aside $300 million to offer the one-time signing bonuses. Workers must accept the job immediately and start the new job by Labor Day.

Those who return to a full-time position could be eligible for a one-time bonus of $2,000 and for a part-time job $1,000. The bonus will be given when the individual has left the unemployment insurance program and completed at least 10 weeks of work with an employer.

Those who are eligible for the Return-to-Work bonuses and want to retool their skills, can also receive a scholarship to a community college or paid test preparation and exams fees for a GED. In addition, the state will help with childcare providing three months of assistance for individuals with children. Furthermore, Arizonans can tap funds to help renters, homeowners and those experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

Currently there is no way to apply for the Return-to-Work bonuses (RTWB) but the DES website says that a portal should be up and running by 10 July. This is also the date when the state will stop federal pandemic unemployment payments. In the meantime, DES says " Individuals must provide pay stubs for each week they want to count toward qualifying for the RTWB. The individual must also provide an employer contact who can confirm the employment and hours worked."