Payson Has Low Food Stamp, Unemployment Numbers


Payson residents are less likely to apply for food stamps or unemployment benefits than people in towns of comparable size in Arizona.

According to figures from the Department of Economic Security, Payson, with a population of about 14,000, had 1,393 food stamp cases for 3,995 recipients in June 2006.

By comparison, Eloy with a population of 11,000 people had 2,860 cases for 10,840 recipients.

San Luis with a population of just more than 15,000 people, had 5,659 cases for 21,940 recipients.

When looking at a slightly larger municipality, Goodyear with a population of almost 19,000 had 2,016 cases for 7,441 recipients.

The unemployment compensation figures mirror the food stamp numbers.

In June 2006, 43 people in Payson were receiving employment benefits. Eloy had 48 people getting benefits, while San Luis had 5,250. Goodyear had 108 residents receiving unemployment benefits.

Barbara Ganz, director of the Payson Regional Economic Development Corp., said the town's high cost of living could be one of the factors with Payson having lower numbers for food stamps and unemployment benefits.

"When someone is no longer employed (here), it would be very hard to survive on unemployment benefits," she said.

Ganz said the person might consider moving to another city or town while still collecting the unemployment check from DES.

"My sense is that (an unemployed worker) would leave," she said. "If the cost of living is high it may not be compatible with what DES pays."

Payson Mayor Bob Edwards agreed with Ganz.

"I would guess that if a person is on (his or her) own, and they lose their job, they would have to move," he said. "They are a mobile group that are constantly changing jobs or are in the food stamp program."

Ganz also said that in some cases there are not many similar employment positions in Payson for the worker who has just lost his or her job.

"Jobs are harder to find in Payson," she said. She added that whether an unemployed worker stays or leaves Payson could hinge on his or her skills and expertise in a certain profession.

Ganz also said she thinks there are a number of residents that are comfortable enough where they would never have to rely on food stamps in order to feed themselves or their dependents.

Ganz said there are other programs residents can turn to supply for their children or dependents before having to rely on food stamps.

According to the Arizona Prospector Web site, almost 47 percent of the residents in Payson have a net worth of more than $50,000, with another 248 people having at least a $500,000 net worth.

Edwards said there is another reason why the unemployment rates are lower in Payson than other towns or cities of comparable populations.

"I would guess that most of the people here who want a job can find a job," he said. "The problem is the affordable housing and where you house those people.

"I would like us to find a way to deal with that situation. It is not going to be a cheap place to live."

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