Governor Doug Ducey carved out an exemption for hospitals in his renewed executive order addressing COVID-19 vaccine mandates (EO 2021-21), though it banned the state and all counties, cities, and towns from implementing any. Additionally, Ducey issued hospitals $35.2 million in grants to aid in staffing shortages. The $35.2 million meted out to $1.2 million in dialysis center support to Valleywise Health, $6 million for more beds, and $28 million to extend around 300 nursing staff contracts.
According to campaign finance records, Arizona’s hospitals did greatly support Ducey during both of his gubernatorial campaigns: Tenet Healthcare, West Valley Hospital, Carondelet Health, Honor Health, Maricopa Integrated Health System (now Valleywise Health), Banner Health, Dignity Health, and Yuma Regional Medical Center.
Health insurance giants also supported Ducey during his two campaigns: UnitedHealth, WellCare Health Plans, Cigna, and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Makers and distributors of the COVID-19 vaccine had Ducey’s back as well: Pfizer and McKesson donated thousands to Ducey’s campaigns respectively. McKesson is a major distributor of the COVID-19 vaccine, and Ducey’s special advisor on vaccination efforts, Dr. Richard Carmona, was one of the latest additions to the distributor’s board. Carmona was appointed to the board about two weeks after Ducey announced him as an advisor to the state.
12 News reported Carmona receives approximately $400 an hour from the state to promote the vaccine through Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). For about two collective weeks of work, Carmona has earned over $35,000. ADHS spokespersons confirmed that Carmon will remain in his advisory role past the December 31 contract end date — possibly through 2022.
The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AHA) thanked Ducey for this decision to reaffirm their mandating abilities. The AHA and its former president supported Ducey during both his runs for governor with thousands in donations.
The funds follow $60 million allocated in September to aid in health care facility staffing for administering treatments to decrease COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Arizona, like many other states, is facing a nursing shortage; their number determines the number of beds available for patients. Earlier this month, ADHS asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for staff who can aid in monoclonal antibody treatments at Banner Health, Carondelet St. Joseph’s Hospital, Banner Health Plus, Banner Estrella Medical Center, Valleywise Health Medical Center, Dignity Health Arizona General Hospital, and Abrazo Central Campus, as well as emergency support at Yuma Regional Medical Center and Canyon Vista Medical Center.
ADHS confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 last week in Yavapai County.
Over 700,000 jobs are expected to be created in Arizona in the next decade, according to a new report from the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).
According to the OEO report, Arizona employment is projected to increase from 3,030,216 jobs in 2020 to 3,751,905 jobs in 2030. This translates to growth of 721,689 jobs, or 2.2 percent annualized growth.
Arizona’s job growth rate will beat out—by more than 3 times—the expected overall U.S. growth rate over the same period. U.S. employment is projected to grow by 0.7 percent annually from 2020, compared to 2.2 percent in Arizona.
The largest job gains are anticipated in the Education and Health Services (23,906 jobs annually) and Professional and Business Services sector. The Education and Health Services and Construction sectors are expected to see the fastest job growth rates at 3.2 percent and 2.7 percent annualized growth respectively. The report predicts job growth in all 15 counties and all sectors excluding government.
According to a recent story, Arizona is recovering jobs lost during the pandemic faster than most other states, with the third-fastest jobs recovery in the nation. This comes on top of forecast-beating revenue collections reported by JLBC, another sign of economic strength. In addition, personal income in Arizona rose last year at a rate faster than nearly any state in the country.
Over the previous decade, Arizona employment increased by 492,645 jobs, or 1.8 percent annual change, to 3,030,216 jobs in 2020 from 2,537,571 jobs in 2010.
Earlier this month the Arizona Supreme Court agreed with a lower court’s ruling that parts of 4 of the 11 budget bills signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey this summer are unconstitutional on procedural grounds. The reaction from business owners and community leaders was swift, with many left wondering when and how lawmakers will address the dozens of provisions dropped from those budget bills.
Among those provisions was a prohibition on a county, city, or town from issuing COVID-19 ordinances that impact private businesses, schools, churches, or other private entities, including mask mandates. Other prohibitions would have kept K-12 schools from requiring vaccines with an emergency use authorization for in-person attendance and ensured public universities and community colleges could not mandate COVID vaccines and vaccine passports.
The Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) describes the Justices’ recent opinion as “devastating” and “a big blow to the people of Arizona.” The organization has drawn attention to the uncertainty and frustration across Arizona at a time when the pandemic impacts are still being felt in the state’s economy, and as individual freedoms are under attack.
As a result, the AFEC is leading the call for the Arizona Legislature and the Governor to immediately address the critical reforms that the Supreme Court struck down.
“They must exhaust every option possible, including special session, to protect Arizonans from more COVID mandates and the bigoted teachings of Critical Race Theory,” according to AFEC. “But make no mistake, while this ruling is devastating, it will not stop the battle over these critical issues. There’s just too much at stake. Because if the uncertainty and frustration caused by these issues are allowed to continue, it would be the most devastating news of all.”
Nearly $41 million has been pledged by Gov. Doug Ducey to provide transitional housing in an effort to reduce homelessness across Arizona, including within Native American communities and for residents with special needs.
“These funds will help families and individuals who are struggling access transitional housing options and equip them with the skills and support needed to secure permanent, reliable housing,” Ducey said Thursday in announcing the funds. “There are a wide range of organizations and programs across the state that help Arizonans succeed — and I’m grateful for all they do to support those in need.”
The Arizona Housing Coalition will be responsible for allocating $10 million of the State Fiscal Recovery Fund funds to organizations which serve those impacted by homelessness. Another $7.2 million will go to Native American Connections for the acquisition of a 58-bed transitional housing facility in the West Valley for youth experiencing homelessness.
The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (ACESDV) will distribute $7.5 million to domestic violence service providers for safe housing options for survivors in need of support. ACESDV will also distribute $4 million to domestic violence providers specifically serving Native American Tribes.
Meanwhile, $5 million has been given to Chicanos Por La Causa to hire personnel who will assist with rental applications and housing relocation, as well as provide referrals to other community resources, while $2.5 million is being provided to Home Matters to Arizona to further the group’s efforts to expand affordable housing options and to support providers that focus on transitional, homeless and domestic abuse shelters.
Habitat for Humanity Tucson has been allocated nearly $1.9 million to create a community-based job training program and to build and repair affordable housing.
Other funding announced by the Governor includes:
$500,000 to one-n-ten to provide safe and reliable housing to LGBTQ+ youth in need of shelter.
$434,276 for Tanner Community Development Corporation to provide more housing options for veterans facing homelessness.
$362,047 for Circle the City to strengthen mental health services for those experiencing homelessness by creating a street outreach team.
$300,000 for Native Americans for Community Action to expand its services that individuals experiencing homelessness utilize.
$250,000 for Primavera Foundation to renovate and expand affordable housing units.
$250,000 for First Place Arizona to offer independent living outreach, health programming, community engagement and mental health coordination to neurodiverse Arizonans.
$250,000 for Southern Arizona Aids Foundation to support counseling and housing programs and those living with HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ+ youth facing housing insecurity.
$250,000 for Tohdenasshai Committee Against Family Abuse to hire personnel to assist with childcare at the shelter in Navajo Nation and to assist with transportation to housing appointments and other services for victims.
$55,000 for Free Arts to provide children in shelters and facilities with art supplies.
$50,000 for Streets of Joy to provide shelter and counseling services to underserved individuals with mental illnesses and inmates recently reentering society, helping them transition to an independent lifestyle.
The governor’s announcement comes on the heels of two other housing related funding opportunities also announced this month. On Nov. 1, Ducey and Arizona Department of Housing (ADOH) Director Tom Simplot announced $197 million to launch the Homeowner Assistance Fund, helping Arizona homeowners struggling financially to pay their mortgage and other home-related expenses.
Then on Nov. 2, the distribution of $15.35 million in federal funding to support programs aimed at combating homelessness throughout Arizona was announced, with emphasis on immediate, transitional options
“Transitional housing is a great steppingstone to helping more Arizonans access permanent housing solutions, and it’s important that our fellow Arizonans have access to those resources. My thanks goes to Governor Ducey for all his work to support the Arizona Department of Housing’s efforts to connect vulnerable Arizonans with safe housing.”
Thursday’s $40.7 million funding announcement is part of $90 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds available to Arizona to address affordable housing, homelessness, and other family issues such as childcare shortages and increased domestic violence made worse by the pandemic.
Flags will be lowered to half-staff for the fallen La Paz County sergeant, Michael Rudd, on Wednesday.
Rudd’s end-of-watch came Monday, after he was struck head-on by another vehicle while in pursuit of a suspect near the Arizona-California border. Rudd had been promoted to sergeant earlier this year in March.
Governor Doug Ducey issued the announcement later in the day, after Rudd’s passing. Rudd is one of three officers killed over the last few weeks. Maricopa County Deputy Juan Ruiz also died Monday, after being taken off life support following an assault last week. Ruiz was beaten unconscious on Saturday by a felony suspect he was jailing. Flags will be lowered to half-staff on Tuesday for Ruiz.
Last Monday, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Group Supervisor Michael Garbo was killed in a shooting in downtown Tucson.
Ducey noted that since the annual Arizona Peace Officers Memorial Service last month, a total of three law enforcement officers have died: Garbo, Ruiz, and Rudd. The memorial had honored 17 fallen officers.
“Arizona deeply mourns the loss of Sgt. Michael Rudd. For years, he protected the people of La Paz County and made Arizonans’ safety a top priority. I recently honored 17 fallen law enforcement professionals at the Peace Officers Memorial, and it was a sobering reminder of the danger these heroes face every day. Despite the danger, Sgt. Rudd wore the badge and worked hard to keep our communities safe. We will never forget his bravery, and our condolences are with his family, the La Paz County Sheriff’s Office, and the law enforcement community. I’ve ordered flags be lowered to half-staff in honor of his service.”