Gov. Doug Ducey

Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday defends state laws and his policies against mask mandates even as the Biden administration may investigate whether they violate the civil rights of students and staff.

PHOENIX — An attorney for Gov. Doug Ducey is asking a judge to toss a bid by a labor group to order him to immediately seek to recoup extra federal jobless benefits that were denied to them when the governor pulled out of the program.

Timothy Berg does not dispute that Arizona law requires the Department of Economic Security to pursue all possible avenues of unemployment compensation. And the federal government did make extra money -- initially $600 a week, later cut to $300 -- available to out-of-work people in Arizona and other states, a program that ran through August.

It also is undisputed that Ducey unilaterally withdrew from the federal program and ended the extra cash as of July 10, a move he said was designed in part to get people to take jobs that restaurants and other employers could not fill.

But in new legal filings, Berg told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper that it was Ducey and not DES who first accepted the federal funds. And he said the governor is not bound by the law that directs the activities of DES.

Berg also disputes a separate argument that DES, on its own, is required to accept and distribute all funds that the U.S. Department of Labor makes available. He said that’s because that agency is governed by existing state laws that cap unemployment benefits at no more than $240 a week.

“DES cannot pay a weekly benefit greater than the $240 cap the Arizona Legislature prescribed in law,’’ Berg said. And he said while another law authorized Ducey to receive and expend those extra federal funds -- what he had agreed to back in March 2020 -- “it does not require the governor to do so.’’

Hanging in the balance is what attorney Paul Gattone said are the extra $300 a week in federal benefits that jobless Arizonans should have collected in the eight weeks between the time Ducey withdrew from the program and when it actually ended. That comes out to $240 per recipient.

All that was made available through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program authorized by Congress last year. It was designed to help address the high number of people out of work due to the COVID pandemic who could not find jobs.

Ducey agreed to participate, initially meaning an extra $600 a week for jobless Arizonans. It later was cut to $300.

But rather than wait for the federal program to expire, Ducey announced in May he would to curtail the extra cash as of July 10 to force some people back into the workforce. That was based on the governor’s belief that the total benefits -- the $240 a week paid by the state plus the extra $300 in federal cash -- provided a disincentive for people to go out and find a job.

That translates to $13.50 an hour, before taxes; the state’s current minimum wage is $12.15.

Ducey did add incentives, including a one-time $2,000 bonus for those who found full-time work by Sept. 6, some financial help with child care, and even a semester of tuition at community college for those who would go back to work.

Gattone, representing Unemployed Workers United and several affected individuals, filed suit earlier this month. He wants Cooper to immediately order the state to retroactively rejoin the FPUC program and get the benefits to which he said out-of-work Arizonans are entitled.

He said the early termination action, aside from being illegal, was ill-conceived, what with the cost of housing in the Tucson and Phoenix metro areas growing faster than the national average. And Gattone said the $240 a week maximum state benefit would put the individual plaintiffs at “imminent risk of eviction and other negative, dire consequences.’’

Berg, in arguing there’s no legal basis for the lawsuit, also told Cooper there’s another flaw in the claim. He said Gattone waited too long before seeking legal relief.

He said Ducey’s plan became known on May 13 yet did not sue until nearly four months later.

“Plaintiffs were aware of their alleged injuries as early as May 13, but they offer no justification for their delay in bringing suit,’’ Berg said.

And that delay, he said also weakens the heart of their claim.

“This delay was especially unreasonable in view of plaintiffs’ claim that they need immediate relief in the form of a preliminary injunction,’’ Berg told Cooper. “Plaintiffs’ unjustified delay in filing suit undermines the purported urgency of their request for a preliminary injunction.’’

Berg also said if Gattone had filed suit before July 10 there might have been some opportunity for Ducey to rescind his decision to terminate the extra benefits. He said seeking relief now, after the federal program has ended, would require the governor to seek a new -- and retroactive -- agreement with the federal government, “a far greater undertaking requiring the involvement of numerous state and federal government agencies and officials and a great deal of administrative red tape.’’

No date has been set for a hearing.

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(22) comments

BigBob

Twosie – regarding your idiotic comments as follows –

1) “…you are not paying the bills that the property owner pays.” Of course I am. I pay rent, he pays his bills out of the rent and retains a profit.

2) “I seriously doubt that most property owners charge more than necessary.” Perhaps, but the new owner of my duplex has evicted both tenants with the statement, “I intend to raise the rent and you can’t afford it.”

3) “…it does not mean that they should charge basement prices and then absorb the loss every month.” I have lived at the same property for over 12 years and my landlord was always making money, he never incurred a loss from the rental.

4) “Renters could not be evicted for non-payment for many, many months.” A lie. Let’s see what Arizona law has to say – A.R.S. 33-141B: B. A lease from month to month may be terminated by the landlord giving at least ten days notice thereof. In case of nonpayment of rent NOTICE IS NOT REQUIRED. In essence, in Arizona, a landlord can evict anyone at any time without providing any reason for doing so.

As to the rest of your idiotic rant why do hate poor people so much?

simon1dog

The Pilgrims didn't come here for disability payments and entitlement money. They were all Republicans I suppose?

BigBob

simple - Heresis an excellent read on white people and Native Americans. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/27/opinion/thanksgiving-history-racism.html. And since there was so such thing as disability payments or "entitlement" monies it is a very simple fact that no one was considering such at that time.

1502

The Pilgrims left their country to be free from religious persecution. Taliban Trump would have never made it. Liars never made it.

Joe Nobody

Well let's see, LHC and MOCO are (R) strongholds, right? Why are there so many places with signs out and running reduced daily hours and cut back to five days a week?

Only the Libs accepted the extra bennies and stimulus checks, right?

1502

Come on how many people in zHavasu on disability payments out boating. I know people in Havasu on disability for over 20 years. Yes they go Jeeping, boating and travel the country. Cut the benefits.

BigBob

02(IQ?) - There are many types of disabilities. I know a veteran who lost a leg in Iraq, owns a boat and is making the best of his forever life damaged life. Would you deny him benefits?

Too old for this

Thank you!

1502

Yes if he can work yes. Getting a check for staying home when you can be productive is not good for anyone.

BigBob

02 (IQ?) - What a wonderful christian person you are. Of course your concept of "being productive" is rather weird.

simon1dog

A joke going around this country for ages has Democrats being born with their hands out and palms up. I believe it's not a joke and is the truth.

BigBob

simple - Why are you such a fool? To believe such a piece of trash is further proof that you're not too terribly bright - something the majority off us have known for a very long time!

BigBob

Why do Republicans hate the average American so much? Particularly those who are out of work?

NorthLong

Why do Democrats hate the thought of people going back to work. There are plenty of jobs available in the workplace. They may not be exactly what your looking for, but at least it's a job.

galnca

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

BigBob

gal - see above.

BigBob

nl - You truly are one ignorant a$$ aren't you?

snd

Bigbob, you are a full time idiot. The question should be why Democrats would rather have people on assistance then having a job and having a sense for self worth??? Plenty of jobs to be had but now there is just a bunch of lazy people who want to live off the government. Our society has gone down the crapper. Money grows on trees according to Democrats.

BigBob

sneed - As usual you're just spewing the right-wing loon idiot fringe BS. I've talked to people who have "Help Wanted" signs out and the problem is there's virtually no one left in town to take those jobs. Having priced housing out of the reach of people who normally would fill service industry positions means they have gone elsewhere. You're assessment of "lazy people" is just more of the bigoted nonsense you fools are taught to say. Pathetic little sheeple. And would you be so kind as to provide some empirical proof of this statement, "Money grows on trees according to Democrats." Please be specific as what Democrat has ever said that. Thank you.

Too old for this

Or, perhaps you are just spewing the left-wing ideology of the Liberals. They do not have an "idiot fringe" as they are all idiots. Housing may be higher than what you want it to be, but you are not paying the bills that the property owner pays. I seriously doubt that most property owners charge more than necessary, intending to profit when they sell their property. Even if I am wrong, it does not mean that they should charge basement prices and then absorb the loss every month. Renters could not be evicted for non-payment for many, many months. They certainly could take a job if it wasn't easier to just take the payoff for their vote, then sit around and smoke their legal weed instead.

Too old for this

They don't hate the average American at all. They do not care much for those who would rather suck the government dry if they could, but those types are not the "average American."

BigBob

twosie - Please tell us exactly who these people are that you claim are "suck(ing) the government dry." Please be specific and don't hesitate to name every corporation that is receiving multiple government hand-outs and subsidies, including tax breaks.

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