State Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock), the 2nd District Democratic candidate for Congress, says more is needed from the federal government – in terms of programming and speed – to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elliott, who is challenging incumbent GOP Congressman French Hill, is in the middle of the state legislature’s biennial fiscal session. She’s seeing how Arkansans are being affected and helped from the state and federal levels.
“I just came from the legislative session where there was a lot of discussion about the unemployment benefits in the CARES Act [Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act] package, and the things that need to be done. Everybody has been made aware of what’s out there, and some of that is still not clear to people,” she said.
“The operationalizing of the CARES Act seems to have the biggest snag right now. For instance, people are trying to sign up for unemployment benefits and they just can’t get through because, you know, we are not equipped to carry something that is this large. There are folks who still don’t have answers,” Elliott said.
While Elliott has been generally supportive of the action taken at the federal level, she said she hopes the fourth part of Congressional relief addresses workers that don’t fit neatly into the existing silos for benefits.
“For example, if you are part of the gig economy, if you are self-employed. At this point, we don’t have instructions on how people like that who have traditionally not been eligible for unemployment benefits, how that process is going to work,” she said. “I was told that’s still being worked out. In the meantime, people are just waiting.”
Elliott also wants to make sure there is more funding for cities, counties and the state government in order to preserve essential services, such as education and health care. Those governmental entities will experience major financial hits due to expected declining tax revenues.
Several Democratic lawmakers at the state capitol, including Elliott, have pushed for a delay in implementing a tax cut for the state’s wealthiest citizens. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has championed tax cuts at all levels of income in Arkansas through his two terms as governor, most recently passing a tax cut on top wage earners in the 2019 session. Elliott thinks that tax cut should be delayed.
“One of the things we know as Democrats is that, and I would think Republicans will feel the same way, that we’re at a point where everybody needs to be a part of the sacrifice. And we just think it makes common sense to ask those who are the most well-positioned, the upper one percent to delay that tax cut,” she said. “It’s not as if we’re asking to delay it forever. Just until 2022.”
A resolution to do that failed to pass in a budget committee last week, but Elliott thinks it should be revisited.
You can watch Elliott’s full interview in the video below.