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AZ Jobless Worry About Benefits Running Out

New numbers show the economy only created 18-thousand jobs nationwide in June.  That means there are millions of Americans still out of work…and many of them are collecting unemployment benefits.  Arizona has chosen not to accept federally subsidized extended benefits…and so far, 20,000 people have been cut off since mid-June.  From Phoenix, KJZZ’s Mark Brodie reports.

Since 2009, Lynn Broshears has been unemployed and looking for work.  Now, she’s bumping up against the 79 week unemployment limit.

(I am looking for front desk receptionists…and, I’d even work as a file clerk)

The 67-year old Tempe resident has been a school bus driver…a school bus attendant…and a receptionist.  She’s sent out a couple hundred resumes since losing her job, but hasn’t gotten many responses.  She currently collects about 150 dollars a week in unemployment benefits…and is worried about losing that.

(I will not be able to buy my medications, I will not be able to pay the car insurance, or the household insurance…

Q: So, I mean, what do you think’s gonna happen?
A: I don’t know…I have no idea.)

(My heart goes out to these individuals that have found themselves in difficult circumstances because of this recession…)

Republican State representative Justin Olson says the debate over extending unemployment benefits was an example of the excesses of Washington.

(…but the reality is after a year and a half, one has to look at their individual circumstances, and evaluate what they’re going to do in order to live within their means.)

Some Republicans argue extending unemployment benefits discourages people from looking for work.  The maximum amount unemployed Arizonans can get is 240 dollars a week…an amount Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira calls a pittance.

(We have a pretty significant incentive, even for those who are receiving benefits, to go out a look for work, because we don’t pay very much for unemployment in AZ.)

Schapira predicts cutting off benefit checks in Arizona will extend the recession a bit longer here.  Economist Dennis Hoffman with the WP Carey School of Business at ASU says unemployment benefits are subsistence checks that recipients use to buy food, gas and other necessities.

(I think it’s really quite clear that a few dollars in their pockets would really help individuals, and it might actually facilitate, let’s say, their job search, and it might shorten the amount of time they spend on the unemployment rolls.)

And, Hoffman says these checks actually stimulate the economy.  The governor’s office asked him to look at the impact of continuing unemployment benefits…he determined it would bring nearly 200 million dollars of direct and indirect spending to the state.  But, Republicans like State Representative Justin Olson say reducing government spending on things like unemployment benefits will strengthen the state’s economy.

(This is the 1 issue, where as a state legislator, we had input on spending at the federal level…and we sent that message to Washington, DC that we have to put a stop to the spending.)

But spending on unemployment is a life line for people out of work, like Lynn Broshears.  She says legislators are playing politics with her life.

(They think we’re a bunch of sluff-offs…we’re not…we have to look for a job, it’s basically looking for a job is a full time job itself.)

Broshears says she hopes to find a job before her checks stop coming…but acknowledges it doesn’t look very promising.  She has a lot of competition…there are more than 109,000 Arizonans currently collecting unemployment benefits.       

For KJZZ, I’m Mark Brodie.