Raul Grijalva press conference on unemployment

Rep Raul Grijalva embraces Tami Dean after a press conference at Pima County One Stop, 320 N Commerce Loop, to highlight the need for Congress to extend emergency unemployment insurance.

A.E. Araiza/ Arizona Daily Star

Tami Dean hasn’t gotten any calls back about any of the jobs she’s applied for, and her voice shakes when she talks about it. 

The single mother was laid off from a contractor job at Raytheon Missile Systems in November 2010 and laid off again in the summer of 2011 from a job at a state agency.

“I was in a very desperate situation,” Dean said. “Rent doesn’t stop when you’re not working. Feeding mouths doesn’t stop when you’re not working. That electric bill keeps coming every month.”

Congressman Raúl Grijalva held a news conference at the Pima County One Stop on Thursday to bust what he called unemployment myths, and he asked Dean and two other local women to share their stories. 

He said Dean is one of 12,100 Arizonans who would benefit if Congress were to extend the long-term unemployment benefits program, which expired in December. 

Dean found help at the One Stop, which is the local job bank, and she was placed in a job-training program. She was cut off from long-term unemployment benefits in May and she still can’t find a job.

The Senate is considering a three-month extension, and the debate is over how to pay for the program by offsetting the extra expense with cuts elsewhere.

“It was called Emergency Unemployment Compensation for a reason. Four times we renewed that, four times there has never been a request to offset the cost,” Grijalva said. “There remains an emergency when you have 1.5 million people unemployed.”

Grijalva thinks there is political will for the proposed three-month extension to pass but said the “agony” will return at the end of that period.

He favors an 11-month extension along with a jobs bill to give employers incentives to hire new workers.

It’s a myth that unemployment benefits make people dependent on government help, Grijalva said.

“The other myth is, ‘If they just look hard enough, there are jobs out there.’ Well, since the Great Recession of 2008, we have had a net loss in this country of 1 million jobs. So jobs are out there, but there are fewer and the competition for those jobs is higher.”

Danielle Cobb, 26, said she’s been looking for work for a year after getting laid off from jobs as a real estate appraiser and bartender. 

She moved back to her mother’s home and will lose her health insurance next month. She was receiving $240 a week in unemployment benefits but was cut off last month.

“I’ve looked for secretarial, I’ve tried selling cellphones, anything. It doesn’t really matter,” she said. “I just need work.”

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 573-4251. On Twitter @BeckyPallack