LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A group led by Legal Aid Arkansas is suing the state to grant an injunction against the state opting out of the federal unemployment assistance.
Kevin De Liban is the lawyer on the case and he said his clients have had added hardships since the state opted out of those extra dollars.
“They don’t know how they’re going to make their bills and you can imagine the kind of worry and fear you experience every day if you’re going to have enough to eat or if you’re going to have someplace to live or take care of all the other things you need to take care of,” De Liban explained.
The lawsuit cites two specific laws alleging the state cannot opt-out of federally funded unemployment assistance programs.
De Liban said all of the federal programs are funded federally and even cover the state’s administrative costs and the state has no authority on opting out.
Arkansas’ latest unemployment numbers are at 4.4%, which is well below the national average.
De Liban also contests that opting out of the federal assistance is unnecessary since Arkansas has such low unemployment and anyone still getting benefits is actively seeking work, since that is a qualifying factor.
“Everybody has strict work search requirements and if you refuse a job that you’re offered that is suitable work then you lose benefits,” he said.
De Liban says his office has received dozens of more calls on this matter since the lawsuit was filed July 23rd.
“More and more have called us who are newly experiencing poverty since the cutoff of these benefits. Dozens of people have called us talking about eh desperation that the state’s actions have caused them,” he said.
Governor Asa Hutchinson’s office did release a statement on the lawsuit:
“Federal law allows a state to opt out of the additional compensation. This was important for Arkansas to get people back to work and it made no sense for the taxpayers to pay an additional $300 per week for someone to stay home when there are employers across Arkansas looking for workers. If legislative support is needed then that can be done but the action I took was based upon the constitutional authority I have in leading the executive branch of government.”