Less benefits for Arizona's unemployed

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Arizona's jobless rate held steady in May. While that would appear to be a good thing, it's not positive news for everyone.

As the unemployment rate drops so too does the amount of federal assistance being offered. That means thousands of Arizonans will soon be out of work and out of unemployment benefits.

“I'm out there every day pounding the pavement looking for a job,” said Laurie Tietjens, just one of Arizona’s 245,000 unemployed people.  “I think it's terrible I really do. People are trying to find jobs, they can't find jobs. It doesn't seem like we're getting any help from anybody.”

And in fact Arizona’s unemployed will now be getting even less help from the federal government.

“Arizona no longer qualifies for tier four emergency unemployment benefits,” said Mark Darmer, Deputy Assistant Director of DES.

Arizona's jobless rate held steady at 8.2 percent in May, triggering federally required changes that will reduce the length of those extended unemployment benefits.

Now, effective June 22 Arizonans will qualify for a maximum 73 weeks of unemployment, that's 16 weeks fewer than before, directly impacting some 33,000 people.

“It's kind of a double edge sword and it's very unfortunately for those folks who haven’t been able to get back into the workforce,” said Darmer.  “Certainly as our unemployment rate goes down there should be less need for these types of benefits”

But unemployed Kelly Oglesby doesn't buy it. 

“For so long the American people have believed in the government and what they tell us we try to believe, we want to believe but it's not happening," said Oglesby.

Or, as DES says, it's just not happening as fast as we'd like.

“I think we are heading in the right direction, it would be nice if it was a little bit faster but it's going the right way,” said Darmer.

Now DES will be notifying all 33,000 Arizonans impacted by this change. And they suggest all unemployed people visit one of the state’s workforce centers where counselors can help connect you with possible job opportunities.