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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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2/20/2014 5:03:00 AM
Bill would tighten qualifications for jobless benefits

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services


PHOENIX -- A House panel voted Monday to make some people wait longer to start collecting jobless benefits.

HB 2115 says any money someone gets when they're laid off counts as if it were income. More to the point, it says that unemployment payments cannot start until that amount is essentially spent by the laid-off worker.

The 7-1 vote by the House Ways and Means Committee sends the measure to the full House.

Unemployment benefits are available to those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Former workers are entitled to half their salary, though the cap on payments is $240 a week.

Lump sum severance payments generally are considered salary.

So if someone who was making $500 a week got a $5,000 severance package, that person would be ineligible for benefits for the first 10 weeks -- essentially how long that $5,000 would last had it been paid out week by week.

But in a ruling last month, the Arizona Court of Appeals said that money paid to an ousted employee to release the company of all claims -- essentially money paid to the worker to keep him or her from suing -- does not count. So that ruling, unless overturned, allows Mark Wynn, who had been a vice president at beer distributor Hensley & Co., to get benefits despite getting the equivalent of 50 weeks of pay.

Garrick Taylor, lobbyist for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, told lawmakers that's not fair.

"Unemployment insurance is designed to cushion the blow from lost income,' he said. Taylor said any money that former workers get, regardless of the reason.

Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, said the change is necessary to maintain the solvency of the state's unemployment trust fund.

That fund is financed solely by a tax employers pay on the first $7,000 of each worker's salary. But the length and depth of the recession resulted not only in the fund going broke but Arizona having to borrow money from the federal government.

Fann said HB 2115 restores unemployment insurance to its original intent.

But attorney Ellen Katz of the William E. Morris Institute for Justice said the issue is not as simple as the business community suggests.

On one hand, she said, is a company which is downsizing is paying someone to leave. And Katz said if workers are being paid a set amount to leave, such as four weeks of pay, she has no problem with having that count against unemployment benefits.

But Katz said that in some cases, it's not that simple,' she said.

"What is of value to the employer is the release of claims,' Katz said, with the worker giving a guarantee to the employer that he or she will not come back at some future point and claim there was an improper discharge or that a contact was breached.. "And an employer can't ask you to release claims unless you're paid some consideration.'



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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, February 21, 2014
Article comment by: M J

Have ya ever noticed

that the more money progressive liberals steal... ah .... "receive" from other people...
the less grateful they become

and the more money progressive liberals "receive" from other people...
the more they want

and the more money progressive liberals steal "receive" from other people...
the less grateful they become

and the more money progressive liberals "receive" from other people...
the more they want

and on and on....
greedy
greedy
progressives


Posted: Friday, February 21, 2014
Article comment by: Audrey Parker

It is amazing to note on all these issues of what is right and fair and feasible, there are those who damn the Republicans from pillar to post for speaking out on them. Lost in the shuffle are the liberalism gone mad of the Democrats. It seems to be a US mantra now, the bad old Republicans and the good old Democrats. Stupidity and ignorant prejudice are alive and well in all 50 states.

Posted: Friday, February 21, 2014
Article comment by: @ MJ Liberals

are "tried" in the press everyday. I think you meant "tired" in your comments.

I'd be willing to bet the leeches and lazy you speak of don't even read the paper or the online blogs. Not all liberals are uneducated, unemployed second class citizens. Not all conservatives are educated, employed first class citizens. You are painting with an awfully broad brush to people who don't even see your comments.
At least proof read your comments before hitting submit.


Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Article comment by: SD Morningstar

I have worked all my life and have paid into the unemployment fund, everyone has. I just don't understand all the political rhetoric of why these people are being chastised for applying for benefits which they are legally entitled to.

Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Article comment by: william gauslow

Dear M.J. - try reading this editorial again. I don't see any liberal begging in it any where.

Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Article comment by: M J

Re: wacka wacka
Good 'ol Liberals...
Once again they expect someone else to take care of them....
someone else can do the work while they enjoy the benefits...
don't you progressives ever get tried of being so... incompetent and inept?
don't you progressives ever get tried of being so... leech like and needy?
don't you progressives ever get tried of being so.... childlike?


Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Article comment by: Tom Babbitt

If unemployment were truly a benefit housewives and househusbands would be able to collect it. It is in fact an insurance and therefore collectible by only those who have paid in. An honest insurer pays its reimbursements promptly.

Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Article comment by: Wacka Wacka

Good 'ol Repugs ...
Increasing the general level of misery.




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