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Unemployment Extension Denied – Meaning Lawmakers Don’t Care

June 12, 2011

Unemployment Benefits

It is unconscionable that Republicans in our state legislature are playing hardball with people’s lives and our fragile economy. Last week Governor Brewer did the right thing by calling the legislature into special session to extend unemployment benefits to more than 15,000 Arizonans whose benefits are now expiring after they failed to act.

The extension, offered by the federal government to all states across the nation with absolutely no cost to state budgets or taxpayers, would provide much needed funding to families for another 20 weeks. Arizona’s obligation? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Simply extend the time we record the unemployed numbers from two years to three.

This action keeps tens of millions of dollars flowing through Arizona’s already fragile economy during one of the worst recessions in state history, stabilizing our GDP. Even more important, these funds help individuals and families stay in their homes at a time when homeless shelters are at capacity and we can ill afford more foreclosures, driving home prices down even further. What’s more: it helps them feed their children.

Chuck Coughlin, the Governor’s campaign manager and senior advisor, suggested that if Republicans don’t vote for this extension, it could manifest in voters turning against them in the next election. Others have said this simply isn’t important enough to matter to the rest of us. So should it matter to you?

Do we really think these Arizonans and Americans are all lazy couch potatoes who have no interest in finding a job to support themselves and their families? Do we actually believe there are jobs readily available?
It is widely known that the current “recovery” is slow and uncertain at best and commonly called a “jobless recovery.” As Governor Brewer stated in her recent Arizona Republic column, “there are forces at play here larger than the inability or unwillingness of some people to find work.” In April, it was reported that 14,000 Arizonans applied for 1,300 positions at local McDonald’s restaurants.

So while corporate stock prices have increased and CEOs have seen record salaries and bonuses, the average American worker has seen stagnant to falling wages and continuous downsizing. Even Hollywood tells story of corporate greed at the expense of American workers in numerous releases: Up in the Air, Downsized, To Big to Fail and Inside Job, to name a few.

So instead of understanding the simple math of this important extension to jobless Arizonans, our state legislators are calling this, “a stupid idea,” and have suggested we need to tack on another corporate tax cut to pass this basic amendment – giving even more benefit to wealthy corporations and individuals while we are forced to take more out of our classrooms next year due to lost tax revenue.

American middle and working class people are struggling. And in Arizona, the situation is even worse than in much of the nation. So why won’t our state legislators extend unemployment benefits when there is no cost to us, and nothing but upside to us all? Simply put: they just don’t care.

–Lisa Urias

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