Today I’d like to a talk about the improvements we’ve made to our unemployment benefits system. I want to assure the thousands of Arkansans who have lost a job because of the COVID-19 pandemic that we are working diligently to get the benefits out the door.
Eighty state employees are answering the telephones at the call center seven days a week from 6 a.m. until 4 p.m. Then they work until 6 p.m to make sure applicants are getting what they need.
The Division of Workforce Services has just launched a new one-stop website that will accelerate the process for those who need answers or who need to file an unemployment claim.
ARunemployment.com includes a link to EZARC, where the unemployed can file a claim. The new website will provide regularly updated information regarding COVID-19-related unemployment benefits.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rearrange almost everything about our lives. As painful as these adjustments have been, they were right and necessary. The health of Arkansans continues to be my highest priority.
As we dealt with the devastating impact of the physical health of Arkansans, we also have had to deal with the economic health of the state and the financial health of thousands of Arkansans who have been thrown out of work.
We have taken some steps to lighten the load for the newly unemployed, including a temporary waiver of the requirement to search for a new job while you receive unemployment.
It is not an exaggeration to say that this health crisis has been a blow to the Arkansas economy. For several years, we have enjoyed business expansion and job creation that produced the lowest unemployment rates in the state’s history.
Then the coronavirus came ashore, and suddenly the unemployment rate has increased significantly.
The current crisis is not over, but it will end. We will recover. This has stalled us, but it hasn’t cracked the solid economic foundation we’ve built through the achievements of Arkansans who have created hundreds of businesses big and small. We have created a business environment that attracts business.
Arkansas is a small state, but we have built a reputation that is bigger than our boundaries and population. We have built a state that is bigger than a historic flood or a worldwide health crisis. The people of Arkansas care for each other.
As to the future, we will get back to business and growth, but we must continue to follow the public health guidelines to make sure our citizens stay healthy and safe.