Arizona Bill Would Force Unemployed To Take First Job Offer

By Holliday Moore
Howard Fischer
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 - 9:34am
Updated: Monday, March 19, 2018 - 10:12am

Arizona Republican lawmakers want to tighten the rules for those receiving unemployment checks.

Currently, state laws state anyone collecting benefits must accept "suitable" work if they're offered a job while collecting unemployment.

It means the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) must consider several factors when matching jobs, such as a person's health condition, experience, prior earnings and moral values.

But, under a proposal by Republican Sen. Steve Smith anyone collecting benefits would be required to take the first job offered, no matter what it is or what it pays, after four weeks on unemployment.

"The purpose being on unemployment is to find a job," he repeated to his colleagues, "So if you're offered a job, I think you ought to take it. We shouldn't say, 'Pretty please, here's a job, would you pretty please take it?' 'No.' 'OK, let me try, how 'bout this one?' If you're offered a job that pays you more than your benefit, you should take it."

Democratic Rep. Mitzi Epstein argued against the bill saying it forces those getting benefits into a difficult situation by making factors like risks to safety and health irrelevant.

"Will I be in endangered if I go on this job? Am I not physically fit enough for this job?'' Epstein asked. "Will this job go completely against my moral fiber about what I think is right or wrong?''

She and other opponents see Senate Bill 1398's language as a short-sighted fix throwing over qualified workers into under-employed positions, which they claim would not stabilize the economy in the long term.

At the moment, Arizona's unemployment rate is 4.8 percent.

If SB 1398 becomes law it would have no immediate impact on how much employers pay. But DES officials said if fewer people overall are collecting, that would leave more money in the special account that finances the benefits, opening the door for future rate decreases.

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