More reporting today from KARK on a familiar topic here: The difficulty hundreds, probably thousands, of unemployed Arkansans face in getting unemployment payments they are due. The lack of money is compounded by difficulties in reaching people in state offices and in getting conflicting responses, sometimes from phone bankers working somewhere other than Arkansas.

The particular focus is the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program extended by Congress in December.

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The state’s response is similar to the one I received in mentioning this earlier:

“We are in the process of updating our systems to include functions for documentation and other new requirements, according to implementation guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor. We received USDOL guidance the night of January 8, 2021. We expect the system to be ready by early to mid-February, but DWS will update claimants and the public as soon as the system is ready to accept applications and weekly claims again. When the PUA site is ready for production, claimants will need to update their PUA application in order to continue receiving benefits.”

The company working on updating the computer system is the same one that designed the system that experienced a security breach.

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Since I last visited the topic, 119 comments have been posted by frustrated people who need money. An earlier item has piled up about 700 comments.

As this website explains, problems are not limited to the PUA program, federally funded payments for gig workers not covered by normal unemployment compensation. But the computer issue also covers the extended regular unemployment compensation (PEUC) the federal government is providing on top of the 16 weeks of conventional payments the state of Arkansas provides (one of the worst in the country). And there’s also the FPUC, an added $300 weekly payment on top of regular unemployment benefits.

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The website Saving to Invest says Arkansas is still not paying benefits under these programs, all extended or enhanced by Congress on Dec. 27.

AR ADWS Update January 21st 2021 : DOL guidelines have been provided, but ADWS agency has provided very limited updates and is presumably in the middle of updating their state UI systems to process payments. Individuals with existing claims for regular unemployment benefits or PEUC should continue to file weekly claims. Those eligible will receive the additional $300 FPUC for weeks claimed beginning with the week ending 01/02/2021. The PUA system must also undergo updates to accommodate the recent extension of the PUA program. Those with existing PUA claims will need to resume filing weekly once certain modifications are complete.

UI claimants with existing or expired claim balances should be aware of the following general guidelines:

  • PUA and PEUC, FPUC will be automatically added to the claimants’ benefits if they are eligible for the weeks outlined in the new legislation.
  • Claimants who will have additional weeks in UI and PUA or PEUC due to state provisions (where applicable) should watch their state agency UI portal or website for updates that will allow additional weeks to be filed (see potential scenarios where you need to take action to get benefits under the new extension)
  • Claimants with weeks remaining in UI should continue to file weekly claims if their state UI systems have been updated for the extended coverage period.
  • Claimants will receive retroactive payments for all weeks they are eligible.
  • Claimants currently receiving benefits through the Extended Benefits program must finish all weeks of EB before receiving additional weeks of PEUC.

Be patient, the state says. It’s hard to be patient when you lack money for food and rent, utilities are cutting off service for non-payment in some places and there are other needs.

In defense of the Division of Workforce Services, I have been informed of some successful trouble-shooting of some specific claims, including one by a worker owed $12,000 since last summer who was living in his truck.