PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Many Arizonans who are out of work are turning to their only lifeline: government assistance. Last week, the Department of Economic Security paid out $519 million in unemployment claims.

"You know what that means, that in one week we have basically paid out what we normally would in three years," said Glenn Hamer, CEO of Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

The new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program kicked off last week. According to DES, they received more than 77,000 claims. The program is being funded federally through the CARES Act. People can now apply weekly and more people are eligible for payments.

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"Independent contractors, and people who would normally not be able to collect unemployment," said Hamer.

If you are back to work, you can still apply for the weeks you were unemployed, according to DES. For more information on how to apply and eligibility, go here

Although the unemployment numbers are high, Hamer said he is staying optimistic.

"If there is a silver lining here, it is that the numbers are going down, meaning the number of new filings each week for unemployment, are going down in Arizona," said Hamer.

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