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Brewer: Take money for Az jobless in this finite setback

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

Arizona’s miserly unemployment compensation could grow a bit if the state would accept $150 million in federal stimulus money.

Gov. Jan Brewer, like a few other Republican governors, is hesitant to take the money. She fears the state may have to extend more benefits even after that money is gone.

Just take the money, Governor, and help our growing number of jobless workers survive this recession.

After all, this stimulus money is enough to last Arizona 11 years, according to at least one expert.

That’s far longer than this recession and its attendant spike in unemployment are expected to last.

While the recession lingers, though, our unemployment rate is rising – up to 7 percent now, from 6.6 percent in December.

Yet jobless Arizonans have been paid a paltry sum: a pretax maximum of $240 a week, lower than any states’ pay except Alabama and Mississippi.

Thanks to the recent $787 billion federal stimulus package, the weekly payments now are at $265.

Granted, that’s nothing to write home about. But if Brewer and the Legislature also take the stimulus money, then eligible parents could get $15 more per child each week, and benefits could be paid to those in job training or seeking part-time work.

Also, some people who hadn’t worked a full year before losing their jobs would qualify for unemployment pay as well.

These are extraordinary times, and many Arizona workers have suffered multiple, unprecedented hardships – losing jobs, losing home value and, for many, losing homes.

Those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own need to know their state elected officials will get them the help they need, especially if it’s available from the federal level.

Millions of Americans suddenly have found themselves without work since the economy tanked, and Arizona is no exception.

These are not slackers eager to feed from the public trough. These are hardworking, taxpaying Arizonans who have been hurled into hard times by forces outside of their control.

Yes, Republican ideologues are eyeing the states’ stimulus money warily.

But Brewer already has shown that her desire to help Arizona exceeds any wish to play partisan games.

She urged lawmakers last week to accept $1 billion a year in stimulus funds for three years, partly to ease next year’s $3 billion budget deficit.

Now she needs to apply that same approach to the $150 million stimulus for unemployment pay.

If stimulus money is OK for legislators trying to balance the budget, then it also better be acceptable for laid-off workers trying to pay the mortgage and feed the kids.

Just say yes, Governor.

If lawmakers use stimulus money to balance the budget, then unemployed workers should be able to use theirs, too.

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