STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats urged Republicans today to fix language in state law so 20,000 Arizonans do not lose their unemployment benefits as early as May.
The fix is simple, and Republicans, who control all of state government, should make the change to boost Arizona’s economy and help middle-class families find jobs, House Democrats said. They want Republicans to amend HB 2619 to include the fix.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “While the nation’s unemployment rate is getting better, Arizona’s is hovering at 9.5 percent. Republicans need to step up and fix this so Arizonans can get jobs.”
Nearly 20,000 Arizonans who are unemployed due to economic hard times could lose jobless aid in May if Republicans refuse to act on fixing language in state law. The state also will lose $4.5 million a week being pumped into the economy.
Because of the economic downturn, Congress voted to expand unemployment benefits. Workers qualify for an additional federal unemployment aid, for a total of 99 weeks. Extended benefits are those paid during the final 20 weeks of that 99-week period.
At issue is a state law that helps Arizonans take advantage of federal unemployment aid. Arizonans get extended benefits because the state's unemployment rate has remained high. But it will lose the aid because the rate fell slightly, although overall, it is still high.
The complex formula compares the current three-month average unemployment rate with what that average was two years ago. If the legislature changes the "look back" provision from two years to three years, Arizona will continue to get the federal unemployment benefits.
“I talk face-to-face with my constituents to understand their concerns about the state, and by far their number one concern is jobs,” said Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14). “Choosing not to make this fix could mean the difference between a laid-off, middle-class father being unable to put food on the table and finding a job.”
Fixing the language wouldn’t cost the state at all, and although the legislative session is wrapping up, the fix can be done quickly.
“Although we have little time in the session, there is still a bill that could be amended to include this fix,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28). “Let’s not forget that Republicans were quick to act on matters like HB 2549, an emergency measure to give Arizona an official nickname. Bottom line, this can be done and it can be done before 20,000 Arizona families lose their unemployment insurance and have to suffer more.”