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In March, the federal government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Included with the CARES Act was an expansion of unemployment benefits which allows independent contractors to apply for and receive unemployment benefits under the temporary federal program called the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

Currently, the process to receive unemployment benefits has proven to be challenging. While the process is frustrating, we must understand that the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) was not prepared to deal with the volume of calls and claims for unemployment. Additionally, independent contractors were not previously allowed to collect unemployment benefits, so this is new territory for everyone. Finally, like the rest of us, DES is trying its best to figure out how to handle the current situation and service everyone.

According to DES’s website, a new system to process PUA is set to launch May 12. Applications will be processed beginning the week of May 12 and payments will begin for eligible claimants that same week. The $600 federal pandemic compensation benefits will be retroactive to March 29, 2020. For more information, see DES’s flyer announcing the new system.

With regard to applying for unemployment benefits, our understanding is as follows:

Step One:  Go to DES Unemployment Insurance (UI) website and apply for traditional benefits.  Note: You should identify yourself or your PC, if applicable, as your employer; not the broker.

Step Two: You may be denied for traditional benefits but Step One is a necessary step so that you can qualify for PUA. If you are denied traditional unemployment benefits, you may receive this Notice.

Step Three: Check the DES website daily for updates. See FAQs here.

The above is general guidance and will be updated as the Arizona REALTORS® learns more about the application process for unemployment benefits. We urge you to be patient and kind during this time as implementing new programs is not an easy undertaking.