Counties consider furloughs in midst of coronavirus

by George Jared ([email protected]) 927 views 

Cases of COVID-19 continued to inch upwards on Tuesday (April 28), but the number of reported cases isn’t growing like it was even a week ago. Crittenden County, the most infected county in the region, reported only three new cases on Tuesday, bringing its total to 174, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

Nearby St. Francis County didn’t report any new cases and remains at 81. Craighead County did increase its total by six cases to 68. No new deaths from the virus were reported in the region.

The economic devastation brought on by the pandemic is starting to take a toll on a number of levels in communities throughout Northeast Arkansas. At Monday night’s Craighead County Quorum Court meeting, the subject of furloughs was broached by Judge Marvin Day, according to Talk Business & Politics content partner KAIT.

The judge said the state’s Shared Work Program through the Division of Workforce Services allows for work-reduced hours. Furloughed employees whose hours were reduced anywhere from 10% to 40% of their regular work hours would receive both state and federal unemployment benefits to help make up the rest of their salary, KAIT reported.

“If they are taking off one day a week, they can file for unemployment for that one day,” Day said.

For the county to enter into the program, they have to make a commitment not to lay off any employees. Day said right now, they are talking with county employees who might be interested in the program.

He went on to say if the employee believes it is a good fit and they want to help the county save some money, then the county is all for it.

The program allows them to get unemployment from the state and also draw the $600 unemployment benefit from the federal government.

“It can be financially beneficial for some employees and beneficial to the county as well,” Day said. “We just don’t feel like we have enough data that we have to make this a mandatory thing.”

Jackson County has reportedly started to furlough employees as well.

The shutdown has impacted high school and college graduations throughout the country and the first doctors trained on the Arkansas State University campus are no exception. The inaugural class of Arkansas’ first osteopathic medical school will celebrate its commencement ceremony through an online ceremony that will be held on Thursday, May 21 at 2 p.m., New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University announced Tuesday.

“We are incredibly disappointed that we will not be able to celebrate in person, but the venue of the ceremony does not in any way take away from the significance of the event,” said Shane Speights, DO, Dean of NYITCOM at Arkansas State.

“We held out as long as possible before making this decision, but in light of our current global health situation, it just isn’t responsible or feasible to hold a large gathering on our campus. The staff and faculty are heartbroken that we won’t get to see the graduates in person and tell them how proud we are of them, but we will honor this special group of students in a manner that dignifies their tremendous achievements,” he said.