Past Arkansas Blog posts continue to be peppered with comments from people who lost jobs during the pandemic and are desperately hoping for three more weeks of the added $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit authorized from disaster assistance money.

Arkansas originally asked for three weeks of the six-week program. It had questions about meeting the state 25 percent match for the next three weeks, since federal money couldn’t be used. Arkansas applied for three more weeks Aug. 25.

Advertisement

Finally, on Oct. 6, the state announced it would pay its share for three more weeks of the Lost Wages Assistance program. And the unemployed have been asking daily, “Where’s my money?”

The legislature has approved an appropriation of up to $25 million to cover the additional three weeks and today do we have the word on how much is expected to be needed. The steering committee, controlled by Governor Hutchinson, that doles out federal CARES Act money will be asked this afternoon to approve use of $10 million from CARES Act money to meet the expected demand for three more weeks of payments.

Advertisement

Pending steering committee approval, the full three weeks of payments may soon be reaching people. The deadline to apply for it passed Sept. 24.

If all eligible workers get the maximum $900, the state is anticipating helping about 10,000 workers, but the proposal says the final amount won’t be known until payments are made.

Advertisement

The first three weeks were paid with non-federal money in the Unemployment Trust Fund and $8 million in CARES Act money. A little more CARES Act money for the unemployed seems appropriate since the Hutchinson administration recently shoveled $165 million of CARES money into the trust fund to prevent a $10-per-employee annual tax increase for Arkansas businesses. This amounted to a $10 million tax cut for businesses but took $165 million out of commission that could have gone to other needs.