A Scottsdale lawmaker plans to push for an end to the state factoring in Social Security when determining seniors’ unemployment insurance.
Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale, plans to file legislation for consideration during the Arizona Legislature’s 2004 regular session.
The issue may be included in a bill to increase the maximum, weekly unemployment insurance benefit from $205 to $240, she said.
The Arizona Department of Economic Security factors in the gross Social Security benefit, including Medicare, divides it by 4.3333, then multiplies that amount by 45 percent.
That amount is then subtracted from the weekly amount in unemployment for which the claimant originally was eligible.
A federal law gave states the right to decide whether Social Security is counted against unemployment insurance, and Arizona is one of 15 states that subtracts Social Security from unemployment insurance.
The AARP platform for the legislative session includes advocating legislation to eliminate offsets in state unemployment insurance benefits, said Lupe Solis, AARP Arizona’s associate director for advocacy.
"No. 1, we consider it an age discrimination issue because . . . you have to be at least 62 before you receive Social Security," she said. "With the economic situation changing for many of them, especially with the past upheavals of the stock market, we’re finding that many of them not only are wanting to work, but are being forced to work."
Many seniors go back to work believing they are eligible for the same benefits as other workers, then are shocked to find out they are eligible for less when, through no fault of their own, they lose their jobs, Solis said.
"We estimate that there is an impact on about 1,200 people in Arizona who would have received full benefits, but instead received a partial or much reduced benefit," she said. "In some cases, we have seen checks as little as $14. That hardly seems worth processing."
James Moseke, a retired construction worker in Apache Junction, said he was forced to go back to work at age 66 as a security guard to make ends meet after he and his wife watched their income shrink because of increases in living expenses and insurance.
Moseke was temporarily laid off and filed for unemployment insurance, and was approved for $138 per week. However, when he received his first weekly check, it was for $67.
"It’s the principle of the thing," he said. "I was counting on that money. It was a stop-gap measure until I found another job, but it would have been nice to get what I was promised."
Moseke has since found another job, but said a change in the law would help other seniors.
Many legislators aren’t aware that this offset exists, and Solis hopes that once they understand it, they will be "very supportive" of legislation to change the law.
Allen said she wasn’t aware of the offset until she was told by the AARP Arizona.
"I personally support AARP’s position," she said.
For now, no legislation has been drafted and all issues concerning unemployment insurance remain in the discussion phase, Allen said.