State Capitol News
2:38 am
Tue March 24, 2009

AZ unemployment benefits to increase

Phoenix, AZ – There's a bit of good news this morning for folks who have been
laid off. Bigger unemployment checks are on the way.

Arizonans who lose their jobs through no fault of their own are
entitled to half of what they were earning. But state law sets
the cap on unemployment benefits at $240 a week, the third lowest
in the country. The federal stimulus bill lets states raise
payments by $25. Paul Senseman, aide to Gov. Jan Brewer, said it
made sense to make the change, as all the cash is coming from
Washington.

"DES is updating its computer system to begin paying the extra
amount by the end of March. So the payments will be retroactive
to the benefit week of March 1, 2009. The extra amount will apply
to everybody that's eligible for unemployment benefits on March 1
and thereafter."

But Brewer is balking at taking another $150 million to provide
jobless aid to more individuals. Senseman said once the federal
cash runs out, the state has to keep providing those benefits --
and passing the costs on to employers.

"And so the question is, for us, we have to determine what kind
of impact that might have on the state budget if there are
increased taxes on our businesses as well as the personnel that
we're required to -- quote -- modernize with."

Senseman said Brewer is still computing the costs here. But Texas
Gov. Rick Perry, who just turned down the same aid, put the
pricetag to firms in his state at $312 million over five years.