Far too many Arizonans have struggled with affording the basics: like food, shelter, utilities, health care, or transportation. Today, more than 4 in 10 Arizona households report difficulty paying for usual household expenses, the highest recorded since 2020. This share is much higher for American Indian, Hispanic, or Black households or households with children.
As elected officials in Arizona tout a growth of jobs and business, more than 1 in 7 Arizona children experienced poverty in 2020, well above the national average. Yet, these officials have chosen not to address barriers to access vital safety net programs intended to help families get by. For example, only 11 percent of unemployed people in Arizona participate in unemployment insurance, and only 6 percent of families in poverty participate in the state’s cash assistance program. Elected officials need to start using state resources to improve the economic well-being of all Arizonans.
WHERE THE AZCENTER STANDS:
We want Arizonans to have guaranteed access to the basics, like food, housing, and paid leave for everyone. Having the basics, the essential elements of human well-being, allows Arizonans to reach their full potential, improves living standards, and shores up the state’s economy. We will continue to advocate for policy change and new programs that help more Arizonans manage rising costs.
HERE IS HOW THE NEXT GOVERNOR AND STATE LEGISLATURE CAN ACCOMPLISH THIS:
Stabilize rent now and in the long-term – To help those struggling to afford and stay in their homes today, Arizona should increase the amount and availability of rental assistance and improve protections for tenants in state law. In the long run, more housing units should be built through large and ongoing investments into the state Housing Trust Fund and incentivizing local governments to address unnecessary restrictions that suppress how much housing can be built. Arizona should also change state law to re-empower local governments to pass affordable housing ordinances.
Increase access to meals for children in school – When household income is under strain, adequate and nutritious food is often de-prioritized in family budgets. Evidence has shown that children experiencing food insecurity are less likely to learn in school. To help address this issue, Arizona’s elected officials can direct more resources to school meals so more children can get the food they need without stigmatizing fees or shaming.
Improve access to and adequacy of safety net programs – For years, Arizona has erected and maintained barriers to programs intended to improve economic well-being such as Unemployment Insurance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. As a result, Arizona has amongst the lowest benefit levels and strictest eligibility requirements when compared to other states for these programs. Elected officials should eliminate these barriers so that more workers and families can access these important financial supports.
Enact statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave – As the pandemic vividly showed, too many Arizona workers had to choose between their economic well-being and their health or the health of a loved one. According to a recent survey, only 1 in 4 Arizona workers have access to paid family leave, and only slightly more have access to extended medical leave. Arizona can be a leader in supporting families and the workforce by enacting a comprehensive Paid Family and Medical Leave social insurance program, guaranteeing at least 24 weeks of leave for all workers.