People let go from their jobs in Arizona want to return to work in a safe and healthy environment.
Most of them either cannot or if they are able to return, will only work a fraction of the hours they had before.
- Because COVID 19 has surged in Arizona causing great health and economic distress.
- It is not safe for people with preexisting health conditions like diabetes or heart disease to work in some positions.
- Demand for goods and products, because people are not buying merchandise or even traveling, has caused employers to furlough workers or reduce their hours.
Displaced workers like those employed at various positions in the hospitality industry or Sky Harbor Airport are finding it difficult to make ends meet because they are either:
- Waiting weeks (months in many cases) for the Arizona Department of Economic Security to process their unemployment claims.
- When their employer calls them back, it is sometimes at reduced hours and their unemployment benefits are either reduced or cut off entirely. This has also led, in some cases, some workers to lose their employer-provided health insurance.
- Scared about losing the federal enhanced unemployment benefits if Congress does not get its act together and extend them. NO ONE CAN LIVE ON $240 A WEEK.
On July 22, 2020, Unite Here hosted a presser, overseen by Brookelynn Nisenbaum, that included two displaced union workers (Lucia Salinas and Donald Ameden,) Unite Here organizer Beatriz Topete, Senate Candidate Captain Mark Kelly, and Phoenix Vice Mayor Betty Guardado.
They discussed the plight of displaced workers in Arizona and the need for state and federal officials to take steps to help them.
Vice Mayor Guardado was moved to tears at the suffering people have had to endure.
So was Ms. Salinas who painfully recounted how her family is struggling to get by and how she has lost her health insurance with her full-time work status. She had to apply for medical assistance through DES. She is only scheduled for 12 hours a week. Her family can not pay the rent, buy medication, or put food on the table at 12 hours a week. She is also afraid of having to go back to work and getting sick with COVID 19.
Ms. Topete described that forty percent of those let go by the hospitality industry has not yet secured unemployment benefits. She expressed concern that the state allotment of $240 a week, “the second-lowest weekly allotment in the nation,” will not be enough to help the displaced make it.
Mr. Ameden, who now works in a catering service at Sky Harbor, had been homeless for two years and is worried that he will be forced back there, especially if he loses the $600.00 a week benefit from the federal component of his weekly unemployment insurance. He concluded his comments by saying:
“We really need help. This is not good for people who has to deal with that (being displaced)”
In his remarks, Captain Kelly stated:
“We’ve got some challenging days ahead of us. I ‘ve been listening to many in the state who are suffering. Before COVID 19, many were worried about living paycheck to paycheck. Now things are aggravated with people losing jobs or hours cut. Unemployment is the only way to make things to meet.”
“The end of extended unemployment is unacceptable.”
“People that will suffer (if it is not extended) is unacceptable.”
“The impact on the state economy unacceptable.”
“The State should make benefits stronger and work better for Arizonans that have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The extra $600 a week should be extended. To leave this to the last minute so people may suffer again is just wrong.”
Vice Mayor Guardado correctly pointed out that:
“People were already struggling before the pandemic on whether they should pay the mortgage, feed the families, send the kids to school, or put gas in the car. Many of us cannot live on $800 a week with what monthly costs. I’ve seen hard-working families homeless that I would not have thought. Many do not want to ask for help (It is a slap in the face for them.)”
The thousands of people who are unemployed in Arizona and millions across the country through no fault of their own need help to live and provide for themselves and their families.
They are not looking for, as some fringe reactionaries would have people believe, a free ride or handout.
They are looking for the assistance the state and the federal government can easily provide if their elected leaders stopped taking vacations like the Republicans in the United States Senate did and attended to the need of the states and the country by passing needed legislation that will provide a stable financial and economic transition for the nation’s citizens.
Everyone looks forward to the day when they could all return safely to work.
Unfortunately, due in part to the mishandling of the pandemic, it will take longer, and people should not be made to suffer while they are forced to wait.
Republican legislators like Martha McSally, Debbie Lesko, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, and David Schweikert need to support legislation that will not stiff and harm vulnerable Arizonans in their greatest times of need.
Doug Ducey could actually take the lead as well instead of deferring to local and federal authorities by calling a special session and ask the legislature for ways to help the people they are supposed to serve.