Problems reported with state Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program; Hutchinson says updates coming

Problems reported with state Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program; Hutchinson says updates coming
There have been questions over the Arkansas Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. (Source: KARK-TV)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT/KARK) - Gov. Asa Hutchinson addressed the continuing problems with the state’s pandemic unemployment assistance program.

According to a report from content partner KARK, many people continue to wait to receive their money or even file a claim.

The Dept. of Commerce learned on Jan. 8 that they had to create a new system to keep up with the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s new requirements.

“Even though or unemployment numbers go down, we still have tens of thousands of Arkansans that are in need of that,” Hutchinson said.

Tuesday, Hutchinson delivered a message for Arkansans who continue to wait.

“We expect more resources to go there,” Hutchinson said. “So we understand that there are some real compassionate needs that need to be met.”

Meanwhile, several Arkansans expressed their frustration as the economic crisis caused by the pandemic continue to unfold.

“The Arkansans need help, I mean, we’re struggling,” Lea Bates of Hot Springs said. “A lot of us can’t get jobs.”

“I can’t pay my bills, so I’ve lost my home, I’ve lost my car,” Maumelle resident Regina Lee said.

If you filed a claim before Dec. 26, Hutchinson said you can continue to file weekly claims, but no payment will be released until the system is upgraded.

If you filed a claim after Dec. 26, Hutchinson said you can file, but the system has to undergo the updates first to accolade those revisions and extensions.

People have been having problems with a program that is supposed to help people who have lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic but have not qualified for an initial unemployment program, according to a report from content partner KARK.

The Arkansas Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program was created last year due to the CARES Act.

Several people told KARK that there had been confusion over the issue.

“All I’ve heard when I’ve called is it’s going to be 7-10 days like it says on the website but then I’ve called again and they’ve said early February,” Bates said.

Officials with the Arkansas Department of Commerce told KARK that work is still being done on the system.

“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 Arkansas Department of Commerce told KARK in a statement.

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