PHOENIX - Tens of thousands of Arizonans are collecting unemployment, but a new bill would allow thousands more to also file claims.
On Friday, HB2805 was submitted by both Republicans and Democrats in the state capitol. The bill's sponsors designed it so claimants are financially encouraged to stay in the workforce.
Like many others, Michael Martinez was out of work for months last year when the pandemic hit. State unemployment was his lifeline when the savings ran out.
"Having a stable place to live is really critical towards employment because you need an address on your forms and look fresh and clean for your interviews," Martinez said.
He’s hopeful Arizona’s maximum benefit of $240 a week gets raised, considering the payout from the Department of Economic Security is the second-lowest in the country.
The new bill introduced Friday, HB2805, would increase the maximum benefit to $300 a week.
"It’s going to mean about $240 more a month, and while that still might be a lot less than they receive in other states, it’s way better than they’re currently receiving," said Dave Wells with the Grand Canyon Institute.
Wells has been pushing for change for years. He pointed out the bipartisan support, with eight Republicans and 25 Democrats backing the legislation.
"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," said Wells.
Right now, after $30 of income a week, a claimant's benefit is deducted every dollar. The cap would increase the cap to claimants being allowed to earn a weekly $160 under the proposed bill, encouraging part-time work.
With a part-time job as well as unemployment, someone could earn up to $460 a week while still seeking a full-time job.
"The ability to stay connected to the labor force in some way really helps people both financially as well as mentally," Wells said. "[It will] help people sustain their future earnings potential."
Wells estimates the change would allow 10,000 more Arizonans to collect unemployment this week that are currently capped out.
Read more about the bill here https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1r/bills/hb2805p.pdf