Here’s a footnote to the fine article by Tony Holt, Bill Bowden and Dale Ellis in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this morning about Arkansas’s woeful handling of the crush of 170,000 unemployment claims financed by federal money.
Phones that don’t answer. Lines that never end. Computer programs that don’t work. It sounded reminiscent of the handling of the computer-assisted signup for the state’s late and unlamented Medicaid work rule. Both processes made aid hard to get. Was that by design?
At least when the Medicaid work rule was in effect, you didn’t have to expose yourself to a deadly disease to get help.
Arkansas has one of the meanest state unemployment programs, ratcheted down legislative session after legislative session over the years to only 16 weeks of benefits and stiff requirements to prove you deserve those. The working poor, disabled, prisoners and other unfortunates just don’t have much of a lobby at the Arkansas legislature.
But back to my footnote.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s richly bonused Commerce secretary Mike Preston assured everyone at yesterday’s news briefing this his people were working “around the clock” to get in place a supplemental unemployment benefits program for gig economy and self-employed workers. He said he hoped to have it ready by “the end of the month.”
As of Friday, according to this article, 17 states, including neighbors Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas, were already paying benefits to gig workers and the self-employed.
And here’s a report that says EVEN Mississippi has started these benefits.