AZ House Democrats lead the way toward economic recovery.
PHOENIX -- House Democrats congratulated each other and their Republican colleagues today after passing an emergency bipartisan bill to use federal stimulus dollars to boost unemployment insurance to middle-class families.
Since February, House Democrats have advocated using the federal stimulus money for jobless aid to middle-class families who have been laid off during tough economic times.
“Thousands of Arizonans are losing their jobs and are unable to provide for their families and children,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “Utilizing federal stimulus dollars specifically set aside for unemployment insurance will help lessen the burden as Arizonans search for new jobs.”
The bill brings $97 million in federal stimulus money to Arizona to add 13 weeks to workers’ unemployment benefits for a total of 72 weeks.
“This is absolutely essential for families and children in Arizona who are struggling through no fault of their own as they tirelessly search for new jobs after being laid off,” said Rep. Phil Lopes, D-Tucson-LD27. “As the nation’s and Arizona’s unemployment rate rapidly climbs, this simple change needed to be enacted now.”
Arizona recently reported the largest over-the-year percentage decreases in employment with 6.7 percent, followed by Michigan, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate climbed to 8.5 percent in March, according to the U.S. Department of Labor figures.
“The bill we passed today is a big step in the right direction and it’s essential to keep moving forward,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “Next, we need to modernize our unemployment insurance system to help the rest of Arizona’s middle-class families hit by the recession.”
About $150 million in competitive federal stimulus dollars are still available to modernize Arizona’s unemployment insurance system.
In order to receive the additional money and assist middle-class families who lost their jobs during the recession, the legislature needs to do two more simple things:
-- Implement an alternative base period by allowing people who haven't worked a full year to qualify by giving more weight to their recent earnings. Workers now are eligible only if they had been in their jobs for a year. This would rein in $50 million in stimulus money.
-- Provide unemployment benefits to those in job-training programs. Adding this will net $100 million of stimulus money.
"I am thankful other members and the governor listened to us on securing our fair share of the stimulus to help people who've lost their jobs," said Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson-LD29. "The legislature did the right thing today, and we should keep cooperating to help middle-class families, jobs and the economy."
- adapted from House Dems PIO