Hutchinson with his letter advising him he's been approved for unemployment insurance.

Governor Hutchinson has received a letter in the mail telling him he has been approved for Pandemic unemployment, he said today at his weekday COVID-19 update, making him one of potentially thousands of Arkansans targeted by fraudsters.

“I did not apply for it. Secondly, I am not entitled to it. And the scheme is most likely if I would go ahead and sign off on this then check it would be issued, but not to my bank account, but to the fraudster’s bank account.”

Advertisement

Suspicions of fraud have held up thousands of claims to Arkansans as the Workforce Services Department investigates. Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said today 27,000 PUA claims and 10,000 UI claims are on hold status, many for several weeks.

Employers and individuals receiving such letters should report them by calling department at 501-682-1058, going to www.dws.arkansas.gov or by filing a police report and providing a copy to DWS.

Advertisement

Preston said he did not know how many of the pending claims are actually fraudulent, nor could he say how much of the $500 million already paid out was fraudulently received. He did say that claims under UI may be more easily tracked because employers receive the letters as well as individuals.

Preston said the state is setting up regional sites for persons to visit with ID to verify their claims.

Advertisement

The FBI and other police agencies are investigating.

The governor also said he was “working hard” on the issue of return to school in three weeks daily. He said he was glad he’d postponed the start of school to Aug. 24 “to study what’s happening in other states.”

Today’s COVID-19 update:

New cases reported: 784. Of those, 774 are in the community and 10 are in correctional facilities.

Advertisement

Active cases: 6,891. Of those 6,410 are in the community, 88 are in nursing homes and 393 are in correctional facilities.

Hospitalizations: 13 more people have been hospitalized, for a total of 526 in hospitals now. Of those, 101 are on ventilators.

Deaths: 15 more, for a total of 490. Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said there did not seem to be a cluster of deaths.

County counts: Pulaski has the highest number of newly reported cases, 149, followed by Sebastian, 56; Mississippi, 55; Washington, 45; Benton, 35; Saline, 25; Crittenden, 24; and Jefferson, 23.

Romero stressed that people screened for COVID-19 should provide telephone numbers for contact tracers. “One of the biggest problems we have is not having adequate contact information,” he said. Timely contact tracing, which is proving difficult everywhere and not just in Arkansas, is crucial to locating the source of infections and stemming the spread by quarantining and isolating. He also reminded people that if they are concerned they may have the virus, to quarantine even before their test results are known and they’ve been reached by a case investigator.