Since the COVID-19 crisis began, forty-eight states have closed non-essential businesses, and the effects are already clear to see. Over 16.8 million Americans have now sought unemployment benefits, with workers in some states hit harder than most. As The Associated Press reports, in Arkansas, unemployment claims have jumped by almost 50%… and the situation is far from over. If you’re an Arkansas resident who’s lost their job or suffered a loss in income as a result of the pandemic, don’t start digging into those savings just yet. In response to the economic downturn, the government has introduced a series of measures to help individuals and businesses stay afloat.
Arkansas has also been quick to respond to the situation, becoming one of the first states to waive the usual 7 day waiting period for new unemployment claimants. “This will be a relief to anyone who is laid off, that they can get more quick cash assistance to make sure their families are cared for,” Gov. Hutchinson explained of the decision to THV11 Digital.
And the measures don’t stop there. Effective March 27, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act aims to relieve some of the financial burdens created by the crisis through the following provisions:
- A $1,200 rebate for taxpayers, with an additional $500 for each dependent.
- A $600 per week, across-the-board payment in addition to state unemployment benefits, payable until the end of July.
A further 13 weeks of paid benefits on top of what the state allows, up to a maximum of 39 weeks in total, until the end of July. An expansion of the eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits to include the self-employed, gig workers, contractors, and those who are unable or unavailable to work because of COVID-19.
Eligibility for Unemployment in Arkansas
In Arkansas, eligibility for benefits is determined by the Department of Workforce Services (DWS). If you’ve lost your job for any of the following reasons, you may be eligible to claim unemployment under the newly expanded unemployment benefits package.
- You are sick with COVID-19.
- You have been exposed to COVID-19 and are under quarantine.
- You are caring for someone who is sick or in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
- You have been furloughed without pay because of COVID-19.
- You are working reduced hours because of COVID-19.
- Your workplace has closed because of COVID-19.
- You cannot work because of school closures.
- You are unable to get to work because of COVID-19 and are unable to work from home.
- You are self-employed or a gig worker whose business has been affected by COVID-19.
As well as considering why you are out of work, the department will also look at what you’ve earned over a one-year base period. The base period is viewed as the earliest four of the five calendar quarters before your initial claim is filed. To qualify for unemployment, you will need to have worked in at least two-quarters of the base period and earned at least 35 times your weekly benefit amount over the entire period.
Applying for Unemployment Benefits in Arkansas
The DWS accept unemployment claims in one of two ways:
By phone: Call (501) 907-2590, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm
Online: Create an account at ArkNet Portal and follow the prompts to file the claim.
Regardless of the method you choose, you’ll need to provide the following information:
- Your personal information (full name, date of birth, mailing address, contact number, and email account).
- Your Social Security Number.
- Your Alien Registration Number, if applicable.
- Your union name and local number, if applicable.
- Your employment history, to include the name, address, and contact details for each employer, your occupation with that employer, the period of your employment, and the reason for the employment ending.
- The names, dates of birth and social security numbers for your dependents, if applicable.
- Severance Information, if applicable
- Military Form DD-214, if applicable.
- Form SF-8 or SF-50, if applicable.
Amount of Unemployment in Arkansas
If your claim is successful, you will be paid a weekly benefit rate equal to 1/26 of your income during the highest-paid quarter of your base period. For 2020, the minimum amount of state benefits is $81 per week, and the maximum is $451 per week.
If you want to check the amount of benefits you’re likely to receive, enter your previous income into the online calculator provided by the DWS. The estimate provided may not be the exact amount you end up receiving, but it’ll give you a good indication of your potential entitlement.
In addition to what the state allows, you will also be eligible to claim a supplementary $600 per week under the terms of the newly introduced CARES Act. You do not need to file a separate payment for this: the department will review your eligibility and issue a separate payment on top of your usual benefits payment, backdated to the end of March. You will continue to receive the supplementary payment until the end of July.
Duration of Unemployment in Arkansas
Under the normal rules, unemployment benefits can be claimed for a maximum of 25 weeks. However, the CARES Act has extended this to a maximum of 39 weeks, valid until the end of July.
How to Appeal
Once you’ve filed your claim, you’ll receive a written determination within 21 days. If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision within 20 days of the mailing date of the determination. Claims can be made either at your local DWS office or through the Arkansas Appeal Tribunal. The appeal will usually be conducted over the phone, and you will have the opportunity to provide any evidence you feel is relevant to the decision. If the appeal doesn’t end in your favor, you have a further 20 days to file an appeal with the Arkansas Board of Review. If you then wish to contend the Board’s decision, you will need to file a court appeal.