COVID-19 in Arizona: Unemployment checks with an extra $600 could come next week

PHOENIX – The state is adding $600 to the maximum weekly unemployment benefit of $240, and the first checks should go out as soon as next week, the Arizona Department of Economic Security said Wednesday. The money was added in response to the tidal wave of workers laid off because of the novel coronavirus, with new claims rising to almost 3.3 million in the U.S. two weeks ago.

“We are going to get them the dollars they are entitled to,” Michael Wisehart, assistant director for the unemployment insurance program at the DES, told the Arizona Republic.

Those in need of support who have reduced hours or have been laid off should not hesitate to file online or call 877-600-2722 for benefits, Wisehart said. The unemployment support is available through July 31.

As of Wednesday, April 1, the Arizona Department of Health Services has reported 1,413 cases of COVID-19 in Arizona, and 29 deaths. As of April 1, the department said, 21,058 tests for COVID-19 have been completed in public and private labs in Arizona, and the results of 19,787 tests were negative.

Restaurants and bars get 90-day liquor license relief

Restaurants and bars have been given a deferral for liquor license payments, Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday. The action is part of the greater initiative to help businesses cope with coronavirus, in response to requests from small businesses who said they would have missed the April 1 payment.

Park and playground closures in Peoria to slow the spread of COVID-19

Peoria is immediately shutting down public parks and amenities until April 30 to curb outdoor gatherings. Amenities include dog parks, tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds and any other public play areas. Open spaces, such as trails and walking paths, will remain open.

ASU Biodesign Institute given $2 million for coronavirus testing

The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust has donated more than $6 million to nonprofits in Arizona that deal with science, human services and arts and culture, the Phoenix Business Journal reports. Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute will receive the biggest portion of the grant, with $2 million to help further testing for COVID-19.

Ducey letter to Trump requests major disaster declaration

On Wednesday, Ducey asked President Donald Trump for a major disaster declaration for Arizona, which would make more resources available to provide access to mental health care, grants to reduce the risk of loss of life or property and more. The declaration also would help provide assistance to programs in Arizona, such as the Crisis Counseling Program and any other appropriate Stafford Act disaster assistance programs.

New website aims to find jobs for hospitality workers furloughed

More than 40% of Arizona’s hospitality workforce is projected to be furloughed, which would affect more than 80,000 people, the Arizona Republic reports. The Arizona Office of Tourism has created a website called the Arizona Hospitality Workforce Connection that lists jobs for those who have been furloughed during the pandemic.

Arizona high school seniors will get diplomas by mail

The Arizona Board of Education set in an emergency rule Tuesday that prevents schools from withholding academic credit or a diploma because schools were shut down on the state’s orders, Capitol Media Services reports. More than 86,000 high school seniors will receive their diplomas if they were on track to graduate. Local school districts will decide if they want to hold graduation ceremonies when the time comes midsummer.

Editors: Earlier versions of this failed to specify in the lede that 3.3 million new job claims were made across the U.S., not just Arizona. The story here has been revised, but clients who ran earlier versions are asked to use the correction found here.

How to help: Make or send masks to a hospital

Havasu Regional Medical Center is accepting homemade and professional medical and protective supplies from donors, Havasu News reports. The hospital seeks disposable latex gloves, disposable face masks, disposable foot covers and more. Donations for coronavirus supplies can be dropped off or mailed to 1785 McCulloch Blvd. N., Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403. Make your own masks at home by following these instructions.

Phoenix Zoo cuts back hours and staff

Animals will be tended to as usual, but staffing cuts had to be made at the Phoenix Zoo, spokeswoman Linda Hardwick said in a press release Tuesday. Cuts affected more than 430 staffers, including more than 15 layoffs, in addition to furloughs and pay cuts. The privately owned zoo has been closed since last week.

The struggle to get COVID-19 information to non-English speakers

Although access to information about COVID-19 is vital, Cronkite News reports many Arizonans who don’t speak English were left for days without guidance from the federal government’s public alert. Advocates from around the country are calling for leaders to do more to translate coronavirus information.

Cronkite News reporter Nicholas Tirella contributed to this report.

Sustainability Reporter, Los Angeles