State Capitol Week in Review – February 5, 2022

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas motorists who wish to contact the State Police for non-emergency reasons can now call *ASP on their cell phones. Dialing *ASP is the same as dialing *277.


Motorists will begin seeing signs on the side of the highway alerting them to the new phone contact. The Department of Transportation is about to place 200 large, blue signs along Arkansas highways with information about the phone line.


When you dial the number, your call will be directed to the closest dispatch center.


State Police officials anticipate getting calls from lost or stranded motorists. Also, they encourage callers to use the new number for reporting suspicious activity, or unsafe driving that may endanger people’s lives.


The number is available to people who have phones from AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile. If your cell phone is not from one of those companies, check with your phone provider to determine whether the *ASP non-emergency connection is available in your network.


Landline telephones will not connect to the non-emergency number.


The *ASP number should be limited to non-emergency calls. For emergencies, continue to call 911. Those calls are answered first and will take precedence over non-emergency calls.


New Rental Assistance Rules

At the urging of legislators, the state Department of Human Services (DHS) has changed how it awards payments in its rental and utility assistance program.


At a meeting of the Legislative Council, Arkansas lawmakers expressed concerns about potential fraud. Specifically, they wanted to make sure that checks that go to tenants are used to pay landlords, rather than spent for other purposes.


DHS encourages both tenants and landlords to apply jointly for rental assistance. Previously, if the landlord declined to participate, the department would send a check to the tenant.


Under new rules, when the department sends a check to the tenant it will have to be co-signed by the landlord to be cashed. That virtually assures that the check will be spent on rent.


The department temporarily stopped accepting new applications while it implemented the change in rules. DHS will continue to process applications that it had already received.


The program is meant to help families who have suffered financially from the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, a household would qualify for rental and utility assistance if a family member was laid off due to the pandemic, or a family member incurred significant medical bills.


Be Pro Be Proud

The state Office of Skills Development has awarded a grant of $1.4 million to add another mobile workshop that travels the state promoting career opportunities for young people who won’t attend a four-year university.


It’s an 18-wheeler called “Be Pro Be Proud” that is filled with interactive technology. The current mobile workshop visits schools, but is book for the next three semesters.


Inside the workshop, students can simulate the experience of operating heavy equipment. They get virtual experience with occupations like welding, HVAC, machinist, electrician, fiber optics technician, plumbing and commercial truck driving.


One of the workshop’s goals is to change people’s preconceptions about taking a career that doesn’t require a university degree.


More than 116,000 students have visited the mobile workshop, and 23,000 signed up for more information about technical careers.