Arkansas Attorney General files appeal against judge’s ruling to resume federal unemployment assistance

Arkansas News

EL DORADO, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — Debate surrounding the state’s participation in the federal unemployment assistance and compensation program will now be taken up with the Arkansas Supreme Court.

“I think they should consider starting it back up,” Shamara Russ said.

The Arkansas Attorney General’s office filed an appeal Friday morning challenging a ruling made by Pulaski County Circuit Judge on Herbert Walker on Wednesday.

He ordered the state resume its participation in the federal program after the Legal Aid of Arkansas filed a lawsuit on behalf of five unemployed residents.

Judge Walker stated Governor Hutchinson exceeded his authority when he made the order to withdraw the state from continuing to receive the assistance.

“Covid cases are rising back again in Arkansas,” Russ said.

This week Governor Hutchinson reinstated the state’s public health emergency but for reasons not related to the number of people still searching for full-time work.

Russ had been receiving the payments up until Governor Hutchinson ordered the cutoff in May with payments officially ending on June 26.

Governor Hutchinson cited that the $300 federal supplement had served its purpose by helping thousands of Arkansans when businesses were shutdown and that it was time to get the state’s economy back to full speed.

Two months later and Russ believes there are still thousands like her that are still in need of assistance.

“You never know. One week you could be able to work 5-7 days a week and then the next week you can only work 1-2 days,” she said.

A date hasn’t been set of when the case will be heard though Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston says nothing will change in the meantime.

Those who have claimed unemployment won’t be receiving any payments while the appeal is ongoing.

“We have more jobs in Arkansas right now than there are in unemployment,” he said. “Allowing people to stay on these benefits well over a year after it had been enacted was hurting our economy. So, we are trying to get people back to work.”

Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston expects this decision to happen “fairly quickly given the magnitude of the situation” though he can’t guarantee an exact timeline and says it depends on how soon it will be heard in court.

Preston encourages those who are still having trouble finding work to seek assistance with the Department of Workforce Services.

“We want to help those people get back into a position of employment,” he said.

The federal program ends in September.

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