Will State Lawmakers Extend Unemployment Benefits?

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Time is running out for state lawmakers to act to extend unemployment benefits for Arizonans who are still looking for work.

The extension wouldn't cost the state any money; the funds come from the federal government, but to be eligible to receive the additional funds, state lawmakers must change one word in state law.

Matt Benson, the spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer, tells The Range that the governor is "gauging the appetite" of lawmakers regarding a special session to make the change.

"She supports a change in statute so the state gets the entirety of unemployment dollars from the federal government," Benson says.

Lawmakers must act by June 3, says Benson.

Republican leaders didn't attempt to make the change during the session because they argue that extending unemployment benefits encourages people to not seek work.

The Pima County Democratic Party sent out a bulletin yesterday noting that since The Rapture didn't take place, out-of-work Arizonans still need help:

The Rapture didn’t happen. Time continues to turn. So more than 15,000 Arizonans are about to lose unemployment insurance claims one week from tomorrow because Far Right political bosses won’t change a “two” to a “three,” in state law.

Arizonans bought this insurance policy. The Federal government will honor the claim for these folks but the state has to use a three-year calculation to get it rather than a two-year calculation. It’s an arcane “lookback” provision but the issue was never brought up during the last Legislative session. Gov. Jan Brewer supports the idea of making the change but hasn’t called a special session. There was even speculation that the measure would pass but Phoenix stands idle.

Not extending the benefits would cost the state millions as suddenly destitute unemployed Arizonans would qualify for state programs. It would also cost the state $3.5 million a week in direct purchasing, because the $240 maximum weekly benefit would be spent and not saved.

“It’s bad economics. It’s bad fiscal policy. It‘s human cruelty” said Pima County Democratic Party Chair Jeff Rogers. “This isn’t free money. This is interfering with Arizona’s jobless ability to cash in on an insurance claim they bought.”

Republicans like Saddlebrooke Sen. Al Melvin have suggested that inflicting financial pain on the struggling would create jobs — something that makes no sense.

“If wanting a job created jobs, we would have a booming economy right now,” Rogers said. “Extreme Phoenix Republicans and their southern Arizona minions like Melvin and Frank Antenori, strayed from mainstream values to create Tea Party License Plates and Birther Bills, while the state’s unemployment languishes. The End of Days may not have happened last weekend but next weekend thousands of Arizona families may be looking the end of rent.”

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