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Bill would make jobless full-time students eligible for unemployment

With so many people working and going to school full-time, it's difficult to see why anyone in this position would be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits, a state lawmaker says.

"It is not acceptable to discriminate against students who are trying to better themselves through education," said Rep. Barbara McGuire, D-Kearny.

McGuire authored HB 2295, which would remove a state Department of Economic Security assumption that full-time students are unavailable for work and thus not entitled to unemployment benefits.

The bill received an endorsement Tuesday from the House Committee of the Whole, setting up a floor vote that would send it to the Senate.

McGuire said Arizona should be making it easier, not more difficult, for the unemployed to transition into different industries by learning new skills.

"You want to give them a leg up, not suppress them and kick them to the curb when they are trying to do the right thing," she said.

Neither McGuire nor Steve Meissner, a spokesman for the Department of Economic Security, could estimate how many people the bill would affect.

Meissner said those who are disqualified because they are full-time students currently can appeal and receive benefits if they prove they would be available to work while going to school.

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Even if McGuire's bill becomes law, Meissner said, full-time students would still have to prove they are looking for jobs to receive benefits.

"Arizona's system is determined as a short-term lifeline to get you through a period of unemployment," he said.

Farrell Quinlan, a lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said there haven't been enough claims or appeals to warrant McGuire's legislation.

"This is a solution looking for a problem," he said.

Quinlan said giving full-time students unemployment benefits could create an added burden on employers and flood the system with applicants at a time when the state's resources are already strained.

"Expanding benefits is not something that the business community is interested in pursuing at any time during this solvency crisis," he said.

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