Unemployed Arizonan stresses importance of benefit extension in job search
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats invited their Republican colleagues Friday to join them in a bipartisan vote to extend jobless aid and help Arizonans find jobs before their benefits run out today.
The fix is a one-word change to state statute and would cost the state nothing. Without it, today Arizona stands to lose $3.5 million a week pumped into the economy, and 15,000 middle-class families will lose a benefit that aids them in putting food on the table while they search for jobs.
“We want to thank Gov. Brewer for calling this special session to make this fix,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “We invite our Republican colleagues to join us to help make this important fix now. This is the right thing to do and we must do it today before time runs out.”
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.
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. If the legislature changes the "look back" provision from two years to three years, Arizona will continue to get the federal unemployment benefits.
“If we don’t do this, our economy and businesses lose $3.5 million per week beginning today, families will be unable to put food on the table, local businesses will lose out and more people will be forced to turn to welfare,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley. “We have the opportunity to help Arizonans as they continue their job hunt while our economy recovers.”
In April, 9.4 percent of Phoenix’s workers were unemployed. In Yuma County alone, the unemployment rate is three times higher. For 15,000 middle-class Arizonans across the state who are still job hunting, losing their benefits next week could catapult them into crisis, when they are averaging $212 each week minus taxes, making Arizona rank last in the nation for maximum benefits allowed.
Patricia Horan, who was laid off from IBM in 2009, is one of the 15,000 people who would lose her jobless aid today without the fix.
“I worked for IBM for 13 years, and after being laid off it’s been tough to find work in this economy,” said Horan, a Buckeye resident. “To me, unemployment insurance has helped me going so I can continue to search for a job. I hope the state legislature can work together to make this small, but extremely important change.”
Horan called House Minority Whip Anna Tovar to ask her to vote for the fix.
“Patricia and so many Arizona families like her use this jobless aid to keep them going while they look for jobs,” Tovar said. “We need a government that starts solving problems and working for Arizonans and their families. This one-word fix is the right thing to do.”