Arkansas officials are submitting an application to FEMA to receive $300-per-week enhanced unemployment compensation for qualifying residents.
If approved, the additional $300 given weekly to the roughly 105,300 Arkansans on unemployment as of June who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic would come from a federal unemployment program announced earlier in August by President Donald Trump. Hutchinson said the legislature approved the appropriation on Tuesday even though the request didn’t go through all the necessary steps.
Nine states including Oklahoma as of Wednesday had been approved for the federal program that pays $300 out of FEMA to the unemployed already receiving at least $100 from their state. Trump announced the $300 weekly FEMA payment deal after the $600 weekly unemployment benefit expired July 31.
"We can withdraw an application if need be, but it will save us days and days if we get that application in to allow the FEMA to start processing that… This will put us ahead of the curve, and if all the systems say go, we’ll be ahead of the line to get those benefits to those Arkansans that are in need," Hutchinson said.
Several present at Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 briefing Wednesday noted Arkansas had room to pay $100 more weekly to unemployed Arkansans and asked if it was a possibility. State Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said it would cost the state $250 million-$265 million to do so.
Hutchinson on Wednesday noted that the state’s unemployment benefits system will need to be adjusted if they are approved for the funds.
Such a request would typically go through the state Legislative Council before submission to the federal government, Hutchinson said.
"I want to put Arkansas in the best possible position to go ahead, submit the application and get in line subject to legislative approval and the federal action that will be needed as well," he said.