NPR logo

Arizona Pits Jobless Benefits Against State Spending

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Arizona Pits Jobless Benefits Against State Spending

Arizona Pits Jobless Benefits Against State Spending

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host: New numbers show the economy created only 18,000 jobs nationwide in June. And the national unemployment rate ticked up again. Many of the millions of out-of-work Americans rely on unemployment benefits while they look for work. In Arizona, the state government has chosen not to accept extended benefits subsidized by the federal government and 20,000 people there have been cut off since mid-June.

From member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Mark Brodie reports that many others are about to lose their unemployment benefits.

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

LYNN BROSHEARS: I am looking for front desk receptionist and I'd even work as a file clerk.

BRODIE: Sixty-seven-year-old Broshears has been a school bus driver, a school bus attendant and a receptionist. She sent out a couple hundred resumes since losing her job, but hasn't gotten many responses. She currently collects about $150 a week in unemployment benefits and is worried about losing that.

BROSHEARS: I will not be able to buy my medications. I will not be able to pay the car insurance or the household insurance.

BRODIE: So, what do you think is going to happen?

BROSHEARS: I don't know. I have no idea.

BRODIE: Some Republicans argue extending unemployment benefits discourages people from looking for work. The maximum amount unemployed Arizonans can get is $240 a week, an amount state Senate Democratic leader David Schapira calls a pittance.

State Senator DAVID SCHAPIRA: We have a pretty significant incentive, even for those who are receiving benefits, to go out and look for work, because we don't pay very much for unemployment in Arizona.

BRODIE: Schapira predicts cutting off benefit checks in Arizona will extend the recession a bit longer here.

Arizona State University economist Dennis Hoffman says unemployment benefits are subsistence checks that recipients use to buy food, gas and other necessities.

DENNIS HOFFMAN: 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 roll.

BRODIE: 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 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.

State Representative JUSTIN OLSON: This is the one issue where as a state legislator we had input on spending at the federal level. And we sent that message to Washington, D.C. that we have to put a stop to the spending.

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

BROSHEARS: They think we're a bunch of slough-offs. We're not. We have to look for a job. It's basically looking for a job is a full-time job itself.

BRODIE: 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 NPR News, I'm Mark Brodie in Phoenix.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.