A new report from a group of advocates and policy experts based in Little Rock says that although the responses from Arkansas are largely positive, there is still much that can be done, especially for low income families.
The eight-page report, released Thursday by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, focuses on short-term policy changes.
Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates, said some changes could be made administratively, while others might require legislative action. At least one will require federal action.
“We encourage people in our network as far as they can contact legislators too,” Huddleston said. “We are not under the illusion that during this fiscal session they will take many actions other than budget items.”
He added that Arkansas Advocate staff sent copies to the governor’s office.
Policy recommendations include home stay orders throughout the state, closing most child care programs and increasing efforts to communicate public health information to the public.
It focuses on seven main areas:
• Family economic security.
• Anti-hunger and nutrition.
• Protect the health of Arkansans
• Coverage of health services and access to services.
• Child care and early childhood education.
• K-12 education.
• Services for immigrants.
Huddleston stressed that he looked at the steps taken by Governor Asa Hutchinson so far, saying that his governor was transparent and moved quickly.
“I think there are additional steps that can be taken,” Huddleston said. “Our goal to issue this is to make sure Arkansas can do anything in the short term to get more cash assistance for vulnerable families.”
Hutchinson has so far refused calls to issue orders to stay at home or at home, saying that it will result in more job losses and that there is little difference between what Arkansas has done (closing restaurants, bars, schools and other businesses) and complete order.
About 90% of the country is under orders to live in homes mandated by the state or city.
“Because of the rural nature of the state, I think it will be a little more difficult to enforce,” Huddleston said of the report’s recommendation to enforce such an order. “I think we want to do everything we can to level the outbreak curve, and I think that’s the next logical step.”
Many recommendations include removing barriers to aid programs such as the Additional Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid and the Special Additional Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
These recommendations include overriding the WIC physical attendance requirements for certification, overriding the requirement that SNAP applicants are interviewed by workers who meet the country’s requirements, and increasing the benefits that are permitted for some programs.
The state has taken steps to make it easier for families to apply for child care, unemployment assistance and food aid. The state also provides increased payments for foster families.
For the Marshall population, adults are not eligible for Medicaid benefits because of the wording in the law that was passed about two decades ago.
People from the Marshall Islands were allowed to move freely back and forth between the United States and the islands, but narrow words in federal law were passed during the administration of former President Bill Clinton excluding adults from Medicaid benefits.
“All public health depends on everyone in the community so if there is a group of people in our community who do not have access to as many services as others, it is not ideal for the health of the whole community,” said Laura Kellams, director of Northwest Arkansas for Arkansas Advocates.
The report states that the Arkansas Advocate will publish another long-term policy review. Huddleston said that it would likely focus on the economic impact on families, specifically cutting the state budget.
The state deducted $ 353 million from the general income budget at the end of March.
“Until we know more about where the budget will be cut, in terms of what the greater priority is, the main question is unknown,” Huddleston said.
Metro on 06/04/2020
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