Arkansas is submitting its application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order for qualified Arkansans to receive $300 a week in Enhanced Unemployment Compensation. This announcement comes as the state added over 700 new coronavirus cases to its total.
Speaking during his daily briefing on the pandemic, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said though the state legislature approved of the unemployment compensation Tuesday through a peer review and said funding still needs to go through the Legislative Council, it was important to apply early.
"It will save us days and days if we go ahead and get that application in, to allow FEMA to start processing that. If we do not have the appropriate appropriations for it we can withdraw that application. But this will put us ahead of the curve and if all of the systems work and say 'go,' then we’ll be earlier in line to get those benefits to those Arkansans that are in need,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said the state could retract its application if the funding is not passed by the state’s Legislative Council, but it was important to get early in line for the program if its approved. However, it will be weeks before anyone sees that new weekly funding.
"I want to caution everybody that might be a recipient of this that this has to be approved by FEMA. And then secondly we have to adjust our system to make sure this new amount can flow out, so it takes an adjustment of our system. And it’s going to be weeks away even if everything looks good and everything is approved," Hutchinson said.
If approved, the money Arkansans will receive on a weekly basis on this program is half of $600 they received from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which expired in July.
Under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump, those who qualify for the insurance could receive up to $400. When asked why Arkansas will not add the extra $100 per week allotted by the order, Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said what Arkansas already pays to unemployment benefits meets that 25% criteria.
"We would not have, or we would have exhausted everything that we had available in the CARES funds had we even been able to utilize that and there were some questions back and forth from the guidance from Treasury. It seems that most states have been taking this option to allow us to use the existing payments as our match to cover that," Preston said.
According to numbers from the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas saw 729 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 54,216. The state added 7 hospitalizations for a total of 499, while 12 more Arkansans died from the coronavirus. The death toll in the state is now 631.
The state says in the past 24 hours, they have received 6,025 testing results.
Ten counties in the state added 20 or more cases on Wednesday. Pulaski County had the highest number of new COVID-19 cases with 65. Jefferson County had the second highest with 56, while Sebastian County added 52.