We've done everything we can to get federal unemployment benefits reinstated for our five plaintiffs and the nearly 70,000 other Arkansans who desperately need them to survive a raging pandemic and the related financial hardships. However, due to the events described below, unemployed Arkansans will NOT be receiving federal unemployment benefits in the near-term future. We and the plaintiffs plan to continue the fight, but, for now, unemployed Arkansans should assume that retroactive benefits or back pay will NOT be available.
Although Judge Herbert Wright ordered the state to reinstate these benefits, the state refused to follow his order. After additional efforts by the plaintiffs and Legal Aid, the Judge again told the state to reinstate these benefits, but the state did not comply. Today, however, the Arkansas Supreme Court put the judge's order on hold, meaning that the state does not have to follow it. The Supreme Court did not rule on the underlying merits of the case, which it will consider later. At the same time, Governor Hutchinson convened a special session of the legislature specifically to rewrite the law that is the basis of our lawsuit.
Two important facts about these benefits have often been overlooked. First, people who receive these benefits lose them unless they search for work, report their efforts, and accept any suitable job offered. Second, these benefits bring the state economy over $30 million per week of federal funds, all at no cost to the state.
We and the five brave plaintiffs undertook this case knowing that the odds were against us. Still, it hurts immensely knowing that so many people will have to endure suffering that could have been avoided. In the coming days, we will be considering any actions that may bring our clients relief. In the meantime, we will continue to bear witness to injustice and do everything we can to carry hope forward for better days to come.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have a civil legal issue and need assistance. Call our HelpLine at 800-952-9243 or apply online at arlegalaid.org.