A look at unemployment insurance in the state of Arkansas finds a “chipping away” of benefits by the state legislature over the past few years, with the “chipping” continuing into January 2018.
The state governing body has repeatedly reduced the amount of unemployment insurance available to Arkansas workers. The reduction has lowered both the duration and coverage as well as the dollar amount of benefits. The result is that Arkansas is now well below the national average for unemployment benefits. That, in essence, puts working families at risk.
At the same time, it becomes another risk to our economy.
Ben Baxter, manager of the Arkansas Workforce Center in Batesville, told W.R.D. Entertainment’s Gary Bridgman, that beginning in January of 2018, the length of time (in weeks) that a person will be able to draw unemployment drops from 20 weeks to 16 weeks.
Baxter also noted that there will be no extensions of benefits once a person has drawn his or her 16 weeks. He said the amount of benefits will not change and noted that the maximum a person could draw in benefits is $451 a week while the minimum is $81 a week. The amount a person draws each week is based on that person’s income over a period of quarters.
Baxter said it has not been proven that cuts to unemployment insurance encourage people to go back to work faster. He said what often happens is an unemployed person takes a job below their skill level.
On the other hand, unemployment insurance rates paid by employers has seen a decrease since the amount being paid out has decreased — a plus for the businessman.
Baxter said another factor that affects a person drawing unemployment benefits is businesses that are seasonal. Workers are “laid off” for a period of time until the demand for the product resumes. But Baxter notes, come January, if a person is laid off for more than 16 weeks, his or her unemployment benefits will not be extended. And, he noted, that’s when families are put at risk.
Baxter also noted that poultry companies have really drawn a “bad rap, ” noting, “the poultry company of today is not your father’s company.” Most poultry complexes today are state of the art with worker pay well above minimum wage and some positions paying excellent wages.
Since most workers pay little attention to the work of the State Legislature, they might be surprised when they’re laid off or lose their jobs and find the length of time one can draw unemployment benefits is 20 weeks — and soon will only be 16 weeks, with no extension.
No, “surprised” is the wrong word. “Angered” would be a better description.
State legislators who want to keep their job and not be “fired” may want to remember that.
Gary Bridgman, W.R.D. Entertainment news director, contributed to this report with commentary. His weekday news broadcasts can be heard on Arkansas 103 KWOZ, 93 KZLE, 99.5 Hits Now, Outlaw 106.5, and CBS Sports Radio KBTA-AM.