Arizona Legislature Overhauls Unemployment Claims

By CRISTINA SILVA

PHOENIX (AP) â¿¿ A bill that would make it more difficult for recently unemployed people in Arizona to collect unemployment benefits is likely to land on Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.

The state House approved legislation Tuesday that would require unemployed workers to present documents showing they were fired before they can receive benefits. Under current law, the burden is on employers to fight fraudulent claims.

The 34-24 vote came a week after the Senate passed the proposal along party lines. Republicans control the Senate and House.

The proposed change follows complaints from business leaders about workers who walk off jobs and then file for benefits.

Democrats slammed Republicans for making it harder for struggling families to seek assistance while also doing little to promote job creation. They said it would be nearly impossible for workers to prove they were let go because employers often don't provide documentation informing workers of their dismissal.

"They are already going through a hard enough time as it is," said Democratic Rep. Jonathan Larkin.

Minority Leader Chad Campbell said workers might not be able to prove they were fired if the company they worked for shut its doors. He blasted Republicans for "creating more problems for the people who don't need more problems in their lives"

"Those are the people we should be helping," he said. "We should be down here trying to create jobs."

Republicans countered that the bill would create jobs because it would protect businesses from devoting hours to fighting fraudulent claims instead of filling open positions.

"They are begging for workers," said Republican Rep. Steve Montenegro. "They need people employed, but sometimes, unfortunately, not everybody, but there are people who chose to be on unemployment rather than take some of those jobs."

Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth said too often state unemployment assistance workers err on the side of jobless workers over businesses "because they have deep pockets and the person who quit has no responsibility."

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