LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Growing concerns around a state business not following COVID-19 mandates led to some big changes in one of its offices in the capital city.
In January, a FOX16 Investigates story uncovered the Department of Finance and Administration Central Revenue Office in downtown Little Rock wasn’t enforcing the state’s mask or social distance rules.
At the time, dozens of people were packed in the office. Many sat crowded on benches and some weren’t wearing masks.
Since then, the office lobby underwent changes, to remove decades old benches and add spaced out chairs.
“We effectively ripped the floor up, pulled up these large couches that were bolted to the floor and said okay we’re going to do this right,” DFA spokesperson Scott Hardin explained. “With attention brought to it, and the fact that, okay it might be time that we do things a little differently, we did.”
Hardin said maintenance staff did the work, and the only additional cost was $1,500 to purchase folding chairs.
There are some less obvious changes as well. Staff are now required to space out open counters to help ensure there aren’t too many people waiting in the same area.
“You can see people really getting stacked up in certain areas, and too close to each other, so we took additional action to move some services around,” Hardin added.
He noted the challenge that remains are masks, and while walking through the office Monday, there were several people who were not wearing them.
Hardin said that policy hasn’t changed. Staff still encourage customers to wear a mask but will not force anyone or ask them to leave.
“We make our absolute best effort to see that they are wearing a mask and give them one, but beyond that we don’t take additional action,” he said.
Some customers say it’s a step in the right direction.
“It’s a big improvement,” Sharon Harvey said while waiting in the lobby for more than hour. “When I’m too close to someone, I’m very uncomfortable.”
Harvey said she spotted several people not wearing masks, arguing that should not be allowed.
“I think someone needs to be here at the door enforcing it,” she told FOX 16 News. “COVID is still out there.”
The changes to the lobby are likely permanent, as Hardin says the state has no plan to reinstall the benches.