U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick said she expects unemployment numbers to hit double digits before any recovery is seen, when she addressed local leaders Thursday afternoon at The Rim Club in Payson.
Kirkpatrick spoke before some 70 business owners and chamber members, who warmly welcomed the freshman representative even though she arrived 45 minutes late, after her vehicle was stuck behind an accident on the Beeline Highway.
In a brief speech, Kirkpatrick covered various topics, including immigration, the economic stimulus package and small business tax relief. This is the middle stop on Kirkpatrick’s nine-day “Getting Arizona Back on Track Tour,” which is making stops across the vast First Congressional District, which stretches from the Utah border down to the Graham County border.
“I have been talking to people all around this district to learn how to keep your doors open,” Kirkpatrick said in reference to the small-business owners. “I want to hear trends that are working and what has you worried.”
Kirkpatrick, who was elected in November, said from day one the economy and jobs have been her top priority.
“The economy has been a grave concern to me,” she said. “I believe we will continue to see unemployment rise into the double digits.”
Although she expects jobless claim numbers to rise, Kirkpatrick said she has seen a few positive signs that the economy is turning around, with car and home sales up.
“It’s not going to be the government fixing this, but the American people,” she said, “and it’s not going to happen quickly.”
She said she wants to hear solutions from the people that she can bring back to Washington.
“This really is a partnership working with you,” she said. “We want to be accessible and meet everyone.”
Small businesses, homeland security and veterans affairs are the three issues Kirkpatrick is focusing on.
On small businesses, Kirkpatrick said six weeks ago the credit market for small businesses all but disappeared, so she had extra money put into the Small Business Association fund.
On homeland security, she said she wants to beef up security on the border and cut off the powerful drug cartels that are bringing crime and drugs into district one.
“We are working hard to stop that from coming into rural Arizona,” she said.
In Payson, Kirkpatrick recently got $8.6 million for transportation projects out of the economic stimulus package to create safer roads and jobs.
“We have serious infrastructure needs in greater Arizona, and with these critical investments, we will make real progress towards meeting these needs,” she said in a press release.
Chris Wolf, CEO of Payson Regional Medical Center, asked Kirkpatrick to keep up the true grit regarding healthcare in Arizona.
“I hope you continue to fight for rural healthcare,” he said.
Kirkpatrick, who served as the attorney for Flagstaff Medical Center for 25 years, said she supports comprehensive insurance reform in the U.S.
“I don’t want to borrow something from another country, I want something uniquely American,” she said regarding the idea of universal healthcare.