Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed legislation around 12:30 Saturday morning, March 28, to create the $173 million COVID-19 Rainy Day Fund addressing various state issues due to the coronavirus.
The Arkansas governor called the action historic, both house and senate members coming together quickly to address the emergency needs of the state, including a $353 million projected shortfall.
“That shortfall is significant, it’s something we know we’re going to have to look to address, but one of the benefits of this piece of legislation is that we can prioritize where we get that money and prioritize backfilling the things that are of the most critical importance right now,” house speaker Matthew Shepherd, said.
The rainy day fund will dissolve and any remaining balance will go back to the state’s general revenue fund on June 30.
More of the nation’s political figures have swiftly banded together to provide relief including the U.S. House of Representatives, democrats and republicans alike, and the senate.
On Friday, President Donald Trump signed the $2.2 trillion economic rescue package into law.
“This will deliver urgently needed relief,” Trump said.
The House approved the measure by a voice vote, as strong majorities of both parties lined up behind the economic relief bill, set to ship payments of up to $1,200 to millions of Americans, bolster unemployment benefits, offer loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses large and small and push billions more to states, local governments and the nation’s health care system.
During his daily update on Saturday, Hutchinson announced two more COVID-19 related deaths, bringing the total to five deaths among the 404 positive tests the state has seen.
In addition, Secretary Mike Preston announced more than 30,000 people just this week – 9,400 or so last week – have applied for unemployment benefits in Arkansas, which is a record for the state.
He said they are upgrading their systems to make sure to keep up with the demand and applications will be back-dated to the day of separation from employment.
Preston said there is a Bridge Action Loan Program, which is focused on small businesses that need cash immediately and those interested should reach out directly to the Economic Development Commission at arkansasedc.com/covid19.
Those who are self-employed, or have recently had to shut down their business, like hairdressers, restaurants, gyms and trainers and others, will qualify for unemployment.
The Log Cabin Democrat’s media partner KATV Channel 7 and the Associated Press contributed to this article.