AZ Bill Makes it Tougher to Keep Jobless Benefits – Another Outrage

Update: 5-16-18: Signed into law by Governor Ducey.  SB 1398 requires that after four weeks of collecting unemployment insurance benefits, the recipient would have to take any job where the employer is offering to pay at lest 20 percent more than the benefits they are collecting.  Those receiving benefits are required to attempt to obtain work during at least four days of the week and make one job contact per day on each of the four days.

Let's do the math:  Arizona's maximum weekly unemployment benefit is $240!  By the way only Mississippi has a lower benefit.  So for someone getting the maximum they would have to take a job that pays $288 a week or  $7.20 per hour for a 40 hour week.  Job seekers can also be forced to take a part-time job of no less than 28 hours a week or $10.29 per hour.  Both of these wages are below the minimum wage, but state law requires minimum wage of $10.50 in 2018.

Republican sponsors of this draconian legislation believe if you are offered a job that pays more than your benefit, "you should take it."  Another argument is that the state unemployment insurance fund has been depleted during the great recession.  However, with rebounding employment the fund now has over $550 million in it.

Bob Karp of SB 1398:  Where to begin.  I find this proposed law to be an affront to working people and an indication of how the Republican majority has little interest or understanding of the challenges facing most working people.  Republicans make an assumption that everyone collecting unemployment benefits wants to stay on them as long as possible.  That's absurd!  If someone collected the maximum benefit for the maximum allowed time, 26 weeks, they would receive $6,240.  Few people are going to choose to live on that amount of money for a half a year. Most people want to work and try to get a job as quickly as possible.  Yes, there is a small percentage that abuses the system, but that is not a reason to penalize everyone.

The solution, to force people to take lower-paying jobs, is bad policy and bad economics.  Again let's do the math:  the median wage in Arizona is approximately $42,000 or about $807 a week.  Under this new policy the unemployed person would be required to take a job paying less than a third of what they were currently earning to keep getting benefits.  They are now earning less and are unable to easily look for a better-paying job for which they were properly trained.  This is no-win for workers and a no-win for employers looking for the right person to fill their job vacancies.

Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler says "I've paid a ton of money into this" referring to unemployment insurance, "this notion that the government or employers or everybody has to take are of someone cradle to grave."  Mr. Weninger is a part-owner of Dilly's Deli sandwich shops with close to 100 employees.  Obviously, he doesn't understand the history of unemployment insurance and its purpose.

I am opposed to SB 1398 and consider it at the top of my list of anti-worker legislation in the current session.

Posted in Campaign Issues, Economy.