In Arkansas Thursday, Circuit Judge Herbert Wright, Jr. ruled in a decision that Arkansas must restart Pandemic unemployment benefits while a lawsuit works its way through the court system. Wright said, “State law requires state officials to work with the federal government to secure all available unemployment compensation.”
“The clear meaning of Arkansas law in this regard is that the state is to participate in these types of programs for the benefit of its citizens,” Wright wrote in his order. “The court has serious doubts that the governor and the director of Workforce Services were acting within the scope of their duties, as the decisions would normally be the subject of legislation from the General Assembly.”
The ruling is a victory for the roughly 69.000 people who lost their benefits when Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson decided they would end on June 26, said Kevin De Liban, director of advocacy for the Legal Aid of Arkansas, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of five jobless residents.
“Everyone has made their best efforts to go back to work, but it’s not easy out there, and the current Covid outbreak isn’t going to make it any easier,” De Liban said, noting that the state requires the unemployed to search for work and accept suitable jobs as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits.
According to Shealyn Sowers, Asa Hutchison’s spokeswoman, the state will appeal the preliminary injunction.
In addition to the $300 weekly supplement, the federal programs provide benefits to freelancers, the self-employed, independent contractors and certain people affected by the coronavirus, and to those who have exhausted their regular state benefits.