Democratic jobless plan emerges to dormant Legislature

By Arren Kimbel-Sannit  Arizona Capitol Times

A Democratic proposal to bolster the state’s unemployment benefit system is taking shape. It’s the product of a consortium of lawmakers and left-leaning think-tanks who fear that the expiration of federal benefit supplements at the end of July could spell trouble for hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Arizonans.

The broad outline of the plan, which has yet to be finalized into legislative language, calls for additional weekly benefits, for an increase in the amount of money Arizonans can make working part-time before they lose their benefit payments and for loosened eligibility requirements.

Democrats broke into working groups immediately after the adjournment of the regular legislative session with unemployment insurance reform as a chief concern, hoping to bring the issue up in a special session that at that time seemed all-but guaranteed. In the pre-pandemic era, Arizona’s maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit was among the lowest in the nation – $240.

The federal government has kicked in an additional $600 per week to help Americans who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, more than tripling Arizona’s usual weekly benefit. But unless Congress acts to extend this supplement, that money will evaporate on July 25.

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