PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- More than 52,000 Arizona workers applied for unemployment benefits since the beginning of last week as the coronavirus continues to batter the economy.

The numbers provided by the Arizona Department of Economic Security reflect the breathtaking toll the pandemic has taken on the economy as the state responds to the unprecedented health crisis.

Before some businesses were ordered to close dine-in to limit the spread of COVID-19, the weekly average of workers applying for unemployment benefits had been about 3,500, according to a DES spokesman.

Last week, more than 29,000 people summited applications with the bleak trend continuing this week as 9,500 applied on Sunday and another 14,000 on Monday.

The grim economic numbers come as the U.S. Senate had failed, so far, to pass a $2 trillion relief package to cushion the economic blow across the nation.

On Tuesday, one of Arizona's top economists warned that down and out workers can't afford for Congress to take its time. Elliott Pollock stressed that fast action is needed now to keep Arizona's economy from sinking deeper into the red.

He wants Congress and the state to quickly get cash into the hands of people who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus. "It's going to get messy as hell," he said.

Pollock estimates one-third of the Arizona economy is shut down, and to keep the bottom from falling out; he says workers need cash now.

Those filing for unemployment in Arizona will not find much if it.

Although state lawmakers approved a $50 million COVID-19 relief package this week, they kept unemployment payments capped at $240 a week.

"We can't remain viable on $240 a week for 30 percent of the employees in the state," Pollock said.


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