As of Thursday’s press briefing, 150,000 applications for unemployment benefits had been processed with the system still experiencing backlog.
Between Wednesday and Thursday’s press briefings, there were 51 new positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, bringing the total to 1,620 overall with 1,035 active cases. As of Thursday, there were 85 people in the hospital and 37 deaths in Arkansas.
When sharing unemployment requests, Gov. Asa Hutchinson pointed out that the weekly average for this time the previous three years was approximately 1,500 claims. This year, over the past four weeks, there have been between 30,000 and 60,000 claims each week. Since April 11, there have been 14,000 claims processed.
Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston stated that the call center will now have extended hours to deal with the increased call volume. Call centers will now receive calls Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In order to better deal with questions, there is now ARunemployment.com that directs people through a series of questions that will lead them to understand if they qualify for unemployment benefits and addresses any questions they may have.
This website is meant to lift the burden from the call centers. Preston shared that this website would soon have a chat feature so people can get their questions answered in real time by a person on the other side of the computer.
There is also a QR code on that website that will provide the ability for people to sign up for a weekly email that will tell people when they are eligible for unemployment. This list is predominantly for those who are contractors or self-employed.
Health Secretary Nate Smith shared that there were 548 recoveries in the state of Arkansas. Of the 223 healthcare workers who have tested positive, 18 have recovered.
As of Thursday, there were 118 cases in 28 nursing homes. However, Smith did not have any new prison numbers.
While Smith is hopeful for Arkansas, he stated that “it is too early for a victory lap.”
Smith also noted, as he has previously, that this is the time for people to become the most healthy version of themselves. He also noted that the most at-risk people are those with heart conditions and those with uncontrolled diabetes.