The Arizona Unemployment Rate for December was 7.5 percent.

The National Rate is 6.7 percent.

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The state benefit for Individual Arizonans on unemployment is $240.00 a week. Only Mississippi in this country is worse.

The Arizona Unemployment system discourages people from accepting part-time work before they find a full job again because the “limit to part-time work” is so low.  Any amount over $30 is deducted from the person’s UI benefits, often leaving them unable to qualify for federal pandemic unemployment help. In turn, that means Arizona’s economy is not receiving that federal support, while other states with better UI systems do receive it.

The Department of Economic Security has not had a performance audit in almost 16 years.

That is outrageous considering all traditional and charter public schools have to undergo an annual audit. The prudent practice would be for the Department of Economic Security to conduct a performance audit every four to eight years.

That may explain why people who apply for unemployment insurance still have to fax documents to the Department of Economic Security.

When the Coronavirus first surged last winter, people had to wait several weeks to receive their first unemployment check.

The Arizona Unemployment System is antiquated and ill-suited to meet the needs of financially distressed individuals and families.

People should ask If a family can live on less than $1000 a month when monthly rentals or mortgage payments for most routinely surpass that. How can people be expected to pay their electric or water bill? How can they put food on the table for their children?

The Arizona Unemployment System is broken and needs to be fixed.

Arizona Legislative District 18 State House Representative Mitzi Epstein, some of her colleagues in the Legislature, and a coalition of organizations want to repair and strengthen it.

Representative Epstein and her colleagues want to modernize the current Unemployment infrastructure and bring it into the Twenty-First Century. They also want to raise benefits for the people on unemployment.

Ms. Epstein graciously took the time to discuss her ideas for helping people enrolled in the Arizona Unemployment System.

The questions and her responses are below.

1) Please tell the readers what are at least two reasons legislation is needed to reform the State Unemployment system?

  • “Unemployment insurance is an economic stabilizer and stops job loss. During a recession, we need a way to create jobs, and Unemployment Insurance is rated by the CBO as one of the best ways to do that.”
  • “Individual people need a bridge from their former job to their next job.”

 

2) What are at least two major components in your legislation that will help people on unemployment?

  • Increase the part-time work limit: Under current law, if you are receiving UI benefits, and you get part-time work for $100, the system puts a limit on you.  We want to increase that to encourage people to take part-time work until they get a full job.   Currently, if you earn $100, and your weekly benefit is $117, your benefit will be cut to $47.  That discourages people from taking part-time work. Instead, we want to increase the limit to $160.   Then you could earn up to $160 in a week, and not have your UI benefits cut.   That plan has shown to encourage people to accept part-time work and develop that work into a full-time job.”
  • “To increase the maximum benefit from $240 to $350. Arizona’s weekly benefit is about $100 less than our neighboring states. Increasing the benefit will help local businesses as people on UI will be able to pay their bills until they get on their feet again.”

3)To what extent do you feel you can generate bipartisan support for this legislation? Please explain.

  • “We are talking with a handful of Republican legislators who agree that we need to incentivize work. David Cook is on the record for saying he wants to do something to help people.”

 

4) Is there anything not covered in the first three questions that you would like to relay to the reader? Please describe.

“We need to have a performance audit of the Unemployment Insurance Division of DES, the Department of Economic Security. One has not been done since 2005. A performance audit would send in efficiency experts to ascertain the quality of the system and their processing/delivery system. I proposed to JLAC, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to do an audit in December and the Republicans said no, despite the fact that I offered a variety of ways to get it done.”

People on unemployment through no fault of their own need that financial bridge Representative Epstein refers to so they can take care of themselves and their families.

The current State Unemployment System is wanting and needs to be repaired.

It is time for the State Legislature to act on fixing that instead of spending time considering measures for tax cuts for plutocrats.

It will help the state’s fiscal situation and economic outlook more in the long run if the legislators took that approach.

Representative Epstein strongly encourages the people of Arizona to email and call their legislators to ask them to pass HB2660, “unemployment insurance; performance audit.” Ms. Epstein maintains that “the audit is not punitive; it is helpful to the people in the Department of Economic Security to find ways to improve customer service for both employers and claimants.”

The bills for monetary reforms are still being negotiated, so there are not bill numbers for all of them, but here are two of them:

  • HB2663:  Protects workers from unhealthy or unsafe working conditions, allowing them to be eligible for unemployment insurance if their workplace is unsafe.  It offers special protections to parents during the COVID-19 pandemic, too.

 

  • HB2662: provides an extra $25 per dependent in UI weekly benefits, with a maximum of 2 dependents.

Please contact your legislator and let them know you want the People on Unemployment to get the assistance they need and to bring the Department of Economic Security into the Twenty-First Century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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