Arizona House committee passes unemployment bill, now it moves to the House for a vote

An Arizona House committee met on Monday, Feb. 15 to decide on the fate of an unemployment bill that would impact tens of thousands of Arizonans.

It passed unanimously.

Arizonans receiving the second-lowest unemployment payout in the country may soon be changing if the bill is passed by the entire Arizona House of Representatives. The bill would up the max weekly payout from $240 to $300.

For a while now, the increase is something advocacy groups have been calling for, but it's gained new momentum in recent months as the Department of Economic Security was flooded with unemployment claims because of COVID -19.

Hundreds of thousands of Arizonans collected unemployment for the first time during this economic and public health crisis.

This bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. David Cook and more than 30 co-sponsors from both parties, was presented in front of the Military Affairs and Public Safety committee. More than half of the committee members are co-sponsors of the bill.

Beyond increasing weekly payouts, it would also change how much someone is allowed to make doing part-time work while collecting benefits. Right, after just $30 in a week, a claimant loses a dollar for every dollar made.

This bill would allow someone to make up to $160 in addition to collecting unemployment. Dave Wells with the Grand Canyon Institute, a nonprofit group, says this would encourage those on unemployment to find work.

"It modestly raises employer taxes to pay for the higher cost and it really stops the horrible problem of discouraging people or cutting people off when they try to supplement their benefits with added work," Wells explained.

The tax increase would cost businesses about $20 per employee. Rep. Kevin Payne says, "Even though I’m a business owner and I pay into this ... I support this."

Gov. Doug Ducey has not commented on the legislation yet.

"A 240 dollar weekly max is not enough," says Elizabeth Newcomb. "It’s so hard, you know."

Israel agrees, saying, "It’s not enough to take care of what I need to take care of." Connie White puts it plainly, saying, "Arizona needs to step up to the plate."

Read more unemployment reports here.

Read more about the bill here