Arizona House to consider bill enticing unemployed to return to work

May 18, 2020, 4:30 PM | Updated: 7:06 pm
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)...
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

PHOENIX — The Arizona House Majority Leader said Monday a bill will be under consideration that would entice available workers away from bloated unemployment benefits and back into the workforce.

Republican Rep. Warren Petersen said the bill, which could be introduced this week, would be a counter to the coronavirus relief bill that boosted weekly unemployment benefits.

Petersen said he’s worried that the expanded benefits are causing Arizonans to want to stay unemployed instead of returning to work.

“Right now, the way the federal government has handled unemployment with the policy created, it’s actually having a reverse impact than it should,” Petersen said. “It’s actually keeping people at home.”

Petersen said specific language of the bill hasn’t yet been ironed out, but that it’s premise will be aimed at out-of-work people who have the ability to return to the workforce.

The goal, Petersen said, is to get people back to work and ideally in a better situation than being unemployed.

The Arizona Department of Economic Security last Monday reported almost 33,000 new unemployment claims this past week in addition to about 295,000 ongoing claims.

The state paid out a total of about $160 million in benefits in the past week.

“If you’re able to get a job, what can we do to make sure people aren’t motivated to stay home and not work just because the federal government has created this huge, massive unemployment benefit that in some cases is more than what people were actually making by working,” Petersen said.

The newly considered bill comes as the House returns for the first time in nearly two months.

The House has been on recess since they passed a basic state budget on March 23, and the Senate only returned once — to move to end the session. The House must approve, and GOP leaders don’t plan on following suit.

Instead, they have scheduled a week of floor sessions starting Tuesday, with hopes of passing dozens of bills.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly two weeks ago to adjourn for the year, with plans to be called back by Gov. Doug Ducey as needed to address pandemic-related issues.

Republican Senate President Karen Fann told The Associated Press Saturday that she would see what actually passes the House before deciding on whether to reconvene her chamber.

KTAR News 92.3’s Griselda Zetino and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona House to consider bill enticing unemployed to return to work