Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the state’s CARES Act Steering Committee will consider allocating $20 million to be used for leave pay for teachers or support staff who must quarantine due to COVID-19 during his regular pandemic briefing Friday.

“I am supportive of the $20 million of CARES Act funding being allocated for our teachers and support staff, which would cover for up to two weeks of paid leave,” Hutchinson said, adding he doesn’t want school employees to have to use their personal leave time if they must quarantine.

Secretary of Education Johnny Key said the $20 million was an estimate that he believes will be sufficient to cover leave due to COVID-related quarantine through the rest of the calendar year.

The governor also announced he will sign an executive order that clearly defines that anyone with a concern over the pandemic can request an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 election. He said the order will also allow county clerks to prepare – but not open – absentee ballots for counting on Election Day.

“I would emphasize the ballots cannot be opened until 8:30 a.m. on Election Day for counting,” he said.

The state saw a jump in the number of positive cases reported Friday with 1,011 cases added for a cumulative total of 48,039. Since the start of the pandemic, 521 people in Arkansas have died as a result of COVID-19.

Jeanette Anderton can be reached at

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