The analysts at Arkansas Advocates for Children have come up with some ideas to add steps already taken by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to soften the economic impact of the coronavirus.
The paper details steps taken so far, then adds a comprehensive list of additional steps, including adding a voice to those calling for an enforceable stay-home order, which the governor has so far resisted along with a handful of other Republican governors.
For example, more could be done on unemployment benefits:
Unemployment Insurance (UI) Arkansas should take additional steps to make it easier for families to apply for unemployment benefits, extend the duration of benefits for families, and reduce the incentive for employers to lay off employees because of existing requirements. These include:
• Waive work-search requirement for all claimants. The Governor has waived work-search, but only for a limited number of claimants. The Department of Labor has issued guidance allowing states to interpret this more broadly and waive the work-search requirement for a greater number of people.
• Exempt COVID-19 related unemployment claims from the Employer Experience Rating. Typically, employers pay UI taxes based on an “experience rating,” so that employers with more claims pay more than those with fewer claims. Exempting COVID-19 related claims would reduce the incentive for even “good” employers to lay off employees.
• Extend the duration of benefits to 26 weeks (which would become 39 weeks with changes at the federal level).
There are similar ideas for loosening rules on temporary assistance payments to needy families and food stamps (SNAP).
Access to health care is also critical, the report notes.
Medicaid Client Enrollment and Eligibility
• Arkansas should streamline eligibility and enrollment processes for current Medicaid categories to ensure that all eligible individuals have full access to the treatment that they need for all of their medical needs, including testing positive for COVID-19.
• The state should temporarily suspend/delay case renewals and end case reviews for individuals currently enrolled in Medicaid.
• Retroactive to January 1, 2020, Arkansas Medicaid should reenroll all children on traditional Medicaid and any children receiving services through the PASSE program who were disenrolled after January 1, 2020. The Family First Act increases the federal Medicaid-matching rate, and that increase applies back to January 1.
• Arkansas should allow “presumptive eligibility” for children and pregnant women. This would provide coverage more rapidly by authorizing qualifying entities, like community health centers and schools, to enroll pregnant women and children who appear to be likely eligible, while the state processes the full application.
There’s lots more on child care, education, service to immigrants.
And long-term? There’s much to be done to develop a budget and tax structure to meet rebuilding needs and, particularly, to serve at-risk people who were already struggling before the virus hit.
These are important topics, worth a read.