Jobless benefits boost pushed - East Valley Tribune: Business

Jobless benefits boost pushed

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Posted: Monday, February 24, 2003 11:41 pm | Updated: 2:09 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

A state Senate committee will consider an amendment Wednesday to increase the maximum, weekly unemployment insurance benefit to $240 by summer 2004.

A striker amendment was filed Tuesday to SB1009, which was a technical correction to health services policy.

The striker replaces the correction with a proposal to, in part, increase the maximum unemployment insurance benefit.

The striker amendment is sponsored by Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale, and will be considered by the Senate Commerce Committee at 8 a.m. Wednesday in Senate Hearing Room 3. Allen is a committee member.

Allen was not available for comment Monday.

The amendment proposes the maximum, weekly benefit, which now stands at $205, be increased to $230 after June 30 this year, and to $240 after June 30 of next year.

Arizona's maximum, weekly benefit has fallen below Alabama and Mississippi, making it the lowest in the country.

State Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has said legislation would be introduced seeking an increase in the benefit without increasing taxes on employers. She also wasn't available for comment Monday.

Several state lawmakers have said they are willing to consider an increase, while others have said increasing the benefit level will unfairly penalize employers through higher taxes.

Children's Action Alliance has criticized the Legislature's failure to increase unemployment benefits.

The state trust fund that pays the benefit now hovers around, and even surpassed last year, $1 billion and is the eighth-highest relative to costs in the nation.

“This is very positive, a benefit increase will help a lot of families and definitely is excellent,” alliance spokeswoman Elizabeth Hudgins said. “There are other issues that we think could be incorporated as it goes along to help more families . . . but this is a wonderful step in the right direction.”

Hudgins also pointed out that the proposal includes a tax decrease on employers.

“Hopefully this will be something that businesses can be supportive of, and it helps families and it's definitely good,” she said.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce, which represents the business community, has said it would support any increase that didn't destabilize the unemployment trust fund and tax employers more.

Employers fund the program by paying state and federal unemployment tax on the first $7,000 of each employee's earnings. Revenue from the state tax goes into a trust fund that cannot be used for anything but paying unemployment insurance benefits.

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