More Than $41 Million in Return-to-Work Bonuses Issued to Arizonans

In May 2021, Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) announced the Back to Work Program. This initiative was designed to support unemployment claimants re-engage with the growing economy as we rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. Through expanded Child Care Assistance, education incentives and Return-to-Work Bonuses (RTWBs), the State has been able to support tens of thousands of individuals eager to work as they reentered the workforce. As of December 15, 2021, more than $41 million in RTWBs have been issued to nearly 21,000 individuals, with an additional 8,000 applications awaiting further information from applicants.

A $2,000 Bridge to Earned Income

RTWBs were helpful in supporting individuals who received regular Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance as they integrated back into the economy, and while employers were struggling to fill positions. With the launch of the Back to Work Program, the bonuses provided an incentive for individuals to restart their careers and earn an income for themselves and their families.

Since the RTWB portal launch, DES has engaged with approximately 260,000 unemployment claimants regarding their potential eligibility following their reentry into the workforce. Through multiple email and mailing campaigns and other forms of outreach, DES ensured individuals were aware of this program and its benefits. We have worked diligently to help those who have begun the application process see it through completion, so they may take advantage of this opportunity.

Simplifying Requirements and Maximizing Benefits

Throughout the distribution phases of the bonuses, we continued to collaborate with the Governor’s Office to simplify the requirements for the RTWBs, which has enabled more individuals to qualify for the program after returning to work. As a result, eligible individuals only needed to have been employed for 8 weeks at a job where they earn $77,000 or less annually in order to qualify for the full $2,000 bonus. There is no longer a distinction between part-time and full-time work, and nearly all types of workers qualify, including gig economy workers, contractors and more (the complete eligibility requirements can be found at des.az.gov/rtwbonus). This has allowed us to provide additional assistance to more individuals eager and in need of a helping hand to rejoin the workforce.

Looking Forward

As the COVID-19 pandemic impacted employment opportunities, DES has developed creative solutions to find new ways to meet the needs of the communities we serve. The RTWBs serve as a prime example of how innovation is integral as we transition out of the pandemic, with long-term success for our clients at the forefront of our minds.

We are grateful for the partnership and collaboration of Governor Doug Ducey and his team in the development, implementation and improvement of the RTWB program, and we look forward to working with each of you as we continue to support Arizona’s economy through workforce services and a myriad of programs and supports for those in need.

Michael Wisehart