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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey cut additional unemployment benefits, according to Judge

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A Maricopa County High Court judge upheld Governor Doug Ducey's decision to cut additional unemployment benefits.

A Maricopa County High Court judge upheld Governor Doug Ducey’s decision to cut additional unemployment benefits.

A judge has sided with Gov. Doug Ducey, saying his decision to cut $ 300 in additional unemployment benefits last year was legal, dismissing claims by unemployed workers who were entitled to the money.

Ducey cut back on additional funds in July 2021, two months before they expired, irritating the unemployed who depended on money amid the peculiar pandemic labor market.

This move meant that more than 100,000 unemployed people received less money for eight weeks of benefits, or about $ 2,400 each. The lawsuit was intended to force the state to pay, but a judge said the governor had the discretion to cut benefits.

“While the governor is authorized to accept and spend federal funds … he is not required to do so,” Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper wrote in her ruling.

At issue were federal unemployment benefits called “federal pandemic unemployment compensation” or FPUC. Temporary benefits added $ 600 a week to unemployment benefits at the start of the March 2020 COVID-19 pandemic in July of that year.

FPUC was later renewed at $ 300 a week in additional unemployment benefits until September 2021. But Ducey decided to cut it down soon to help struggling employers who could not find people to hire.

Without the extra benefits, Arizona residents were left with a maximum of $ 240 a week in state benefits. That amount will increase to $ 320 a week in 2022.

“The court finds that Arizona law does not require defendants to obtain FPUC benefits. FPUC was an optional benefit of the CARES Act that states could initiate and stop at their discretion,” Cooper wrote.

Ducey said at the time that he announced the cuts that Arizona would allocate $ 300 million in federal money to offer a one-time $ 2,000 bonus to people who get a full-time job, while those who return part-time will receive $ 1,000. dollars.

His office praised the decision.

“We are very pleased with the ruling. It confirms what Governor Ducey has been saying all along, that the best social program is a job,” Ducey spokesman CJ Karamargin said Friday after the ruling.

Officials from the Unemployment Workers Union, which filed the lawsuit, said they would appeal the decision.

“I am upset by the judge’s decision,” Marcela Huerta, the plaintiff in the case, said in a UWU press release. “A lot of people, myself included, are suffering right now.”

He said money could “change the lives” of some people.

“I would have liked our elected officials to be with us, not against us. My husband has medical bills and the FPUC funds will be of great help to us,” Huerta said.

Reach out to journalist Ryan Randazzo and Ryan.randazzo@ arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.

Subscribe to azcentral.com today.

This article originally appeared in Arizona Republic: Judge: Ducey’s decision to stop additional unemployment benefits was legal

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