A handful of Democratic lawmakers held a press conference today to announce they are donating their special session paychecks to a nonprofit employment assistance organization and chastise their Republican colleagues for not extending federal unemployment benefits.
“It’s really difficult for people to find work these days. Some have even been forced into homelessness,” said Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix.
Joining Hobbs in donating their $140 legislative paychecks to Arizona Community Voice Mail were House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, House Minority Whip Anna Tovar, Rep. Ruben Gallego and Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor.
Lawmakers are paid $24,000 per year and receive per diem payments during session. For the four-day special session earlier this month that resulted in no extension of unemployment aid, legislators from Maricopa County received $140 in per diem.
Arizona Community Voice Mail provides unemployed and homeless people a phone number connected with a voicemail account where potential employers and family members can reach them, said Juan Mendez, the firm’s manager.
“It allows them to compete with everyone else in the job market,” he said.
In addition to the five donations made today, Hobbs said that other Democrats have agreed to donate their paychecks. She didn’t provide an exact amount of money donated and couldn’t say how many lawmakers had pledged to contribute their special session pay.
Mendez said the voicemail service costs the organization $1.50 per month and the average user keeps the service for six to seven months.
Landrum Taylor said she is “extremely disappointed” that Republicans did not vote to extend unemployment benefits. She called the special session a “waste of time and a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
She also called unemployment in Arizona a “serious situation” and said it’s “still not too late to do something about it.”