COVID-19 Small Business Resources
August 10-16, 2020
Gov. Hutchinson creates advisory panel for upcoming high school sports year
Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday (July 31) appointed 14 physicians, mental health professionals, coaches, and educators to the High School Sports Advisory Group, which he created to consider the safest way to conduct sports and activities for the 2020-2021 school year.
“The Department of Health will continue its responsibility to provide health guidelines, and this group of experts will serve in an advisory capacity to look specifically at how we can have fall sports in the safest manner possible,” Governor Hutchinson said. “We want to consider every angle to protect our athletes, cheerleaders, and band members.
“My message for the football players on Monday is to grab your helmet for practice and then after practice, grab a mask. Because our responsibility for safety extends beyond the practice field.”
Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe will chair the group. Kelvin Gragg, superintendent of the Dumas School District, is vice chair. The other members of the High School Sports Advisory Group are:
• Dr. Lowry Barnes, orthopedic surgeon and chairman of UAMS Department of Orthopedics.
• Jacob Brown, Therapeutic Family Services.
• Paul Calley, dean of students, assistant football coach, Southwest High School.
• Jason Cates, athletic trainer at Cabot School District; chairman of the Arkansas Sports Medicine Committee.
• Laura Crow, volleyball coach at Conway High School.
• Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, state epidemiologist, Arkansas Department of Health.
• Fitz Hill, State Board of Education.
• Dr. Michael Israel, associate professor of Adolescent Medicine and Director of Sports Medicine at Arkansas Children’s.
• Dr. Lee Johnson, state representative.
• Janet McDonald, behavioral health professional at Pinnacle Point.
• Lance Taylor, director of the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA).
• Dr. Joel Tumlison, physician specialist, Arkansas Department of Health.
UAMS to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing for Arkansas colleges and universities
The Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and UAMS Northwest Regional Campus have been authorized by the Arkansas Department of Health to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing for public and private colleges and universities in Arkansas.
The project is in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and the Arkansas Department of Health supported by $5 million in federal coronavirus aid that was allocated by the by the Arkansas Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Steering Committee created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
The project will involve establishing two contact tracing centers, one in central Arkansas and one in northwest Arkansas. The work will be done by 75 contact tracers, two center directors, and an assistant center director.
“Our goal is to protect the students and employees on each of these campuses,” said Jay Gandy, Ph.D., associate provost and project lead for the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus. “This group effort will allow us to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic among the higher education institutions in Arkansas.”
Contact tracing is how public health officials track the spread of an infectious disease. If a person is confirmed to have COVID-19, they need to isolate themselves, so they don’t spread the illness. Public health officials contact these people to help them recall who they have been in contact with while they are infectious. Then those people are contacted and asked to quarantine themselves to stop further spread.
“As colleges begin going back to school in August, we want to change the norms and behaviors of these students,” said Ben Amick, Ph.D., associate dean for research and project lead for the College of Public Health. “That will be the only way to ensure that students are following social distancing practices, wearing masks, and taking other COVID-19 precautions.”
The college has developed a website for resources, materials and best practices. Also, UAMS, Arkansas Department of Health, and Arkansas Department of Higher Education officials are working closely with each institution to ensure their preparedness plans are in place and proper precautions are taken if a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19.
Arkansas courts receive 240,000 face masks, largest supply of PPE to fight COVID-19
Arkansas courts across the state will be receiving additional personal protective equipment (PPE) to help keep citizens, judges and staff safe at local courthouses across the states, Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp announced on July 23.
The Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), which supports the state’s court system, has acquired its largest batch of PPE to date, including 240,000 face masks. This is the third round of protective equipment that the AOC has distributed to the state’s circuit and district courts.
The cost and availability of PPE have been significant barriers to normal court operations in many parts of the state. “Courts provide essential services to the public and must be safe and accessible. Our task continues to be trying to achieve a balance between maintaining access to the courts and protecting public health,” said Kemp.
The AOC will be distributing the following to each of Arkansas’s 75 counties:
• 1,000 blue disposable masks
• 200 reusable cloth masks
• 2,000 cardboard disposable one-time use masks
• 100 16-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer
• One large 1 liter bottle of hand sanitizer
CARES Act funding for PPP loans, unemployment benefits hit respective deadlines
Federal funding for the popular Paycheck Protection Program and extended unemployment benefits of $600 per week and under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act are both near ending as Congress huddles in Washington, D.C. to approve another round of emergency pandemic relief totaling more than $1 trillion.
In early July, Congress extended the PPP program through to Aug. 8, which still has more than $135 billion in obligated funds when the $650 billion loan fund hit its original deadline at the end of June. That program, administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Treasury, has approved more than 4.9 million loans to mostly small business owners across the U.S. with an average funding amount of $100,000.
At the end of the original PPP deadline on June 30, SBA’s District Office in Little Rock had processed a whopping $3.3 billion in PPP loans that were made to 42,427 businesses across the state. The average PPP loan was a tidy $78,246, keeping some 375,741 Arkansas jobs off unemployment rolls, according to Edward Haddock, SBA’s top Arkansas official.
Although there are no discussions in Congress of extending the program that began on April 3 beyond its third deadline on Saturday (Aug. 80, the U.S. Senate and House leaders are in talks with the White House on another round of funding that would provide new COVID-19 stimulus checks to families and extend jobless benefits to unemployed workers.
That popular CARES Act program, which allows out-of-work Americans to receive an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks, expired on Saturday (July 25). According to U.S. Department of Labor data, more than 32 million people are set to lose the additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits that are part of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.
In May, House Democrats approved the so-called HEROES Act, an 1800-page coronavirus relief bill that extends the $600 per week unemployment insurance supplement through Jan. 31, 2021 and then allows the supplement to continue through March 31, 2021 for those who have not exhausted their benefits. That bill, among other things, also Oks additional funding for voter protections for the upcoming 2020 presidential election, $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, and provides additional food stamp funding.
On the other hand, the proposal penned by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would cut unemployment benefits to $200 per week until states can implement a 70% wage replacement program, which could take weeks for Arkansas and other states to set up. Lawmakers and White House negotiators, led by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, must reach an agreement this week before Congress leaves the nation’s capital for the month-long August recess.
Both parties have agreed on providing at least another $1,200 stimulus check to most American families, which mirrors the similar proposal approved in the first CARES Act on March 27.