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From the attorneys on the case

As you know, a lawsuit was filed last week on behalf of Unemployed Workers United and the nearly 100,000 unemployed workers in Arizona receiving pandemic-related unemployment benefits, alleging that Gov. Ducey and the Director of DES unlawfully refused to accept and pass on the $300 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefit for nine weeks from July 10, 2021, to the week beginning on September 6, 2021 (up to $2,700 per person). Arizona law requires the state to “Take such action as may be necessary to secure to this state and its citizens all advantages…that relate to unemployment compensation…” A.R.S. § 23-645 (“State-Federal Cooperation”). The lawsuit claims that “all” means “all” and by turning down these FPUC benefits completely paid for by the federal government, Gov. Ducey and the DES Director violated Arizona law and, ineffectively changing this law, violated the Arizona Constitution’s separation of powers principle by unlawfully taking power that belongs to the Legislature.

Today, we are filing a motion for a preliminary injunction and we are requesting an expedited hearing on the matter because the end of the CDC’s eviction moratorium coinciding with the end of the pandemic-related unemployment benefits has created a crisis for many Arizonans who should have received the FPUC benefits. To the extent that state officials have claimed that the lawsuit is too late since the program has ended, we just learned that on September 3, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which oversees the contracts with the states to provide these benefits, issued guidance to all fifty states (including Arizona) on how states that canceled benefits can go about retroactively reinstating those benefits. There is an urgency to doing this, however, as the DOL has set October 6, 2021, as a deadline for reinstatement of these federal benefits.

We are aware that some individuals have spoken negatively about this lawsuit. Any time there is a legal action affecting so many people, there will be people with different opinions and everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, this lawsuit filed by Unemployed Workers United and three individual unemployed workers is the only lawsuit that has been filed on this issue and, therefore, the only opportunity for Arizonans who unfairly lost these benefits to recover them. Of course, there is always the chance a court will disagree with us about how to interpret the law and there is no guarantee of a win, but if the court interprets the law as written, finding that “all” means “all”, we strongly believe this lawsuit should be successful. Gov. Ducey himself is a “strict constructionist” meaning he believes the courts should interpret laws as they are written. In any case, it makes sense to us to continue to fight for these federal benefits for so many Arizonans who need them and which come at no cost to the state of Arizona. As you fight for your rights through Unemployed Workers United, we will continue to fight in the courts and will keep you up to date on what is happening with the lawsuit through UWU. Dominick Corey and team with We The People, For The People United! We have a Facebook group! https://www.facebook.com/groups/azpul2.0

Sheila Maddali and Chris Williams, National Legal Advocacy Network

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