Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments are reportedly on the way soon for Arkansas workers.
Arkansas Department of Commerce Secretary Mike Preston told reporters that the first round of PUA payments are projected to go out the week of May 18 “barring any unforeseen issues or glitches.” According to Preston, individuals who have filed PUA claims have received an email detailing the payment plans.
Individuals eligible for PUA payments include self-employed individuals, independent contractors, gig-economy workers and more who have been impacted by COVID-19.
Approximately 30,000 PUA applications have been submitted since the system went live on Tuesday, May 5, Preston said. Under Arkansas’ PUA system, the minimum weekly benefit is $133 and the maximum weekly benefit is $451.
Money magazine reported only 37 states have started issuing PUA payments, as of May 12. Arkansas is one of the 23 states that has not yet begun the process of sending out payments. Several nearby states, including Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas have already begun making PUA payments.
Preston said the system is currently being completed and the certification and payment process are being worked on. This work is designed to keep the site and individuals’ banking information secure.
“Obviously, a lot of testing will go into that as we’re dealing with banking account information and routing information. We want to make sure that site and system is secure as possible. We obviously don’t want to expose ourselves to any additional fraud if we don’t have to. Certainly, in times like this, we want to have a system that is secure,” Preston said.
Preston explained that securing the site before payments are processed is critical to reduce the number of fraudulent claims and prevent having to “claw back” money that is fraudulently obtained through the system.
“Therefore, the stringent testing on the front end should help us on the backside,” he said.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which was created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, has had a longer road to completion than other forms of unemployment assistance. Preston told reporters on April 9 that PUA was an unprecedented effort, requiring a new system to be built to intake the information necessary to process the benefits.
The Department of Commerce began testing its new PUA system at the beginning of May. Arkansas Money & Politics reported on May 1 that the system was still being worked on but the testing phase had commenced, serving as a soft launch for the system.