Commerce Secretary Mike Preston and Workforce Services Director Charisse Childers announced with great fanfare yesterday that the state was at last ready to process pandemic unemployment assistance payments through a long-delayed website. They bragged this was coming a week earlier than originally predicted.
But, they also said:
- A claim filed yesterday would first have to be reviewed for eligibility and it would be at least a week before payment.
- People entitled to payments have to re-submit ID verification.
Arkansas is among the last states to get new federally financed assistance checks for more than 50,000 small business people and gig workers who don’t qualify for conventional unemployment assistance or have timed out on the state’s meager regular benefits (among the worst in the country).
If you think the announcement meant all was at last well, I invite you to read the latest of the more than 1,100 comments on the open forum that we developed on the state’s star-crossed implementation of the assistance program. It dates back more than eight months to a gross security breach in a poorly designed system.
As news trickled out last night that the web portal was open, many reported getting one check at last, but they said multiple other weeks for which payments are due were flagged for review. People reported accounts being locked and also complained of an inability to get people to answer the phone. There was also confusion about providing 2020 federal tax information.
For one example of continuing confusion, I got this note this morning:
First, thank you for taking the comments from ur readers and asking questions for those that are not included in any other stories. Here is my update and from what I have read on comments some of the same problems for others that received PUA prior to Dec. 26. The system is updated I guess, it gives you the option to file weekly claims now BUT it says that we are not eligible because we need to file a regular unemployment claim first.. already did that last year and when I go to do it now, it says I am eligible for 0.00 weekly. But according to a Workforce Services rep, that is not a denial, it is actually acceptance and if I do continue to file that claim, I will be in limbo for 5-6 months because that is how far behind they are on sending out decisions. So, he told me not to file the claim and just wait it out and see if it changes. No one can answer a direct question it seems. Meanwhile, most of us are just wasting away out here in limbo.
Your government at work.