Arkansas judge orders state to resume extra jobless aid
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A judge has ordered Arkansas to resume its participation in supplemental federal unemployment assistance that the state cut off to thousands of workers.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herbert Wright on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction ordering the state to seek federal approval to continue the payments.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson in May ordered the state’s Division of Workforce Services to end the state’s participation in the program after June 26. The federally funded additional benefits were scheduled to run through early September.
Arkansas was among more than two dozen Republican-led states that decided to end the program amid complaints from employers that they were having a hard time persuading people to come to work. Proponents of the assistance said employers should offer better wages and benefits.
Wright said state law indicated that ending the payments was a decision for the Arkansas Legislature, not Hutchinson, to make. He ordered the state to provide written proof if the federal government won’t allow the payments to resume.
“The court has serious doubts that the Governor and the Director of Workforce Services were acting within the scope of their duties, as these decisions would normally be the subject of legislation from the General Assembly,” he wrote.
Legal Aid of Arkansas sued the state over the cutoff on behalf of five residents who lost their benefits. The group said the move would help 69,000 residents who lost their additional benefits.
“Thanks to the ruling, people will now be able to get benefits to help them pay the rent, keep their lights on, have enough food to eat, and see the doctor while they continue their job searches,” Kevin De Liban, the group’s director of advocacy, said in a statement.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he hadn’t read the ruling but he expected it would be appealed quickly to the state Supreme Court.