Thursday, April 23, 2009

House Dems win bipartisan support for jobless aid

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


imee said...

Great. I just hope these funds will be used properly. These government help programs are meant to help temporarily--we don't want another situation like the employed & unemployed middle class & rich people using welfare when they can still clearly get by.


Princess Blue Pill said...

Imee, I would be interested to know how those who are in dire straits have been able to 'clearly get by', in your estimation. You may be confused with corporate welfare. Now, there's a fat-cat group of folks who can clearly get by with out a hand out, and who clearly have a track record of using using federal funds properly.

My suggestion is to target your concern on corporate welfare, and not on average folks hit by hard times.

Stephen said...

Any chance they can raise the max benefit? It's capped at $240 a week. The max unemployment available is $1040 a month. Federal poverty level is $1215 for a family of 2. I have a decent amount in savings, but the unemployment benefits don't kick in for 6 months and after that wouldn't even cover rent, utilities & food.

They just need to index for people with incomes over $24,000. Continue to index up to income of $49,950. That would raise the max benefit to $500 per week or a max yearly benefit of $26,000. That's not an amount I want to live on for long, but I CAN live on that while I'm looking for a job. You can even do that temporarily just for the recession/depression whatever it is we are in.

I've never had to use unemployment benefits. I've never been without a job more than maybe a month. It scares me to think if I lose my job that I couldn't even afford my rent payment.

The fund has over a billion dollars in surplus. This is the time it's needed. That's why we pay unemployment insurance. Its to protect us from events beyond our control.

DRP said...

Highest rate in AZ is now $265/wk., due to fed. increase of $25. This is very low compared to other neighboring states and AZ should work to raise it, and I and the House Dems have been calling for.

Eli Blake said...

Unfortunately the unemployment rate is over 7% in Arizona and is rising (for that matter, almost every Presidential administration has computed unemployment differently than their predecessor, with changes designed to make things look better than they are. I read recently that if unemployment were computed in a manner identical to the way it was during the Great Depression we would be looking at a bit over 10% nationally right now, not sure what it would be in Arizona.)

Regardless of how it is computed, unemployment is a numbers game, sort of like musical chairs. There are more bodies than jobs, and when the music stops someone is going to be out of a job because they will all be filled.

Further, if we assume that most jobs are filled (especially in a recession) by people who intend to remain in those jobs, then it is like a game of musical chairs in which most of the people who are seated can stay in their seats and don't have to stand up for the next round, making it much harder for the people who do have to find a chair to find one. This means that the number of jobs available for hire at any given time may be a very small proportion of the people who don't have one.

It's amazing to me that some people (probably people who are fortunate to have a secure job themselves) don't understand the basic math of unemployment. It's really not that complicated. To go back to the example above, it would be like the people who don't have to get up shaking their fingers at the people running around looking for chairs and telling them that if they just run faster they too can find a chair.