Arkansans reporting issues with PUA program


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansans are sharing their stories about the state’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. 

This program was created under the CARES act of 2020 to help people financially across the state, who lost their job, but didn’t qualify for the initial unemployment program.

While most people are used to going to the unemployment office — many are now using PUA, and recently that program was extended, but some people say they are still having issues.

“I can’t pay my bills so I’ve lost my home, I’ve lost my car,” Maumelle resident, Regina Lee said. 
After not being able to work because of the pandemic it’s been tough for Lee. She has been on the lookout for more PUA.

“I haven’t heard nothing from them, I got a payment last week for $132, I didn’t get the $300,” Lee said.

There’s been confusion based on the different responses people have heard from the Department of Commerce and it’s been frustrating for many.

“All I’ve heard when I’ve called is it’s going to be 7-10 days like it says on the website but then I’ve called again and they’ve said early February,” Hot Springs resident Lea Bates said.

“We’re not getting no response from them or what we need to do,” Lee said.

On the Arkansas Department of Commerce website, there is a message that pops up, and it said the option to file claims is unavailable and things will be fixed by Jan. 10th.

We reached out to the State’s Department of Commerce, they sent us a statement saying: 

“We are in the process of updating our systems to include functions for documentation and other new requirements, according to implementation guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor. We received USDOL guidance the night of January 8, 2021. We expect the system to be ready by early to mid-February, but DWS will update claimants and the public as soon as the system is ready to accept applications and weekly claims again. When the PUA site is ready for production, claimants will need to update their PUA application in order to continue receiving benefits.”

But as time goes by, some of these personal struggles can no longer wait.

“The Arkansans need help, I mean we’re struggling,” Bates said. “A lot of us can’t get jobs, we’re not able to get childcare, we are being put out on the streets because you guys are dragging your feet.”

“We got approved for that money and now we’re waiting on it and they’re saying mid-February and it’s over in March,” Lee said. 

This new system will require people to verify their IDs and proof of employment. The state said instructions on this process will be mailed or emailed out.

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 Arkansans are taking their concerns to Facebook, talking about their personal struggles and experiences.

There have been issues before, in August of 2020, thousands of unemployment claims were put on hold for potential fraud.

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