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State Capitol Week in Review – May 21, 2021

LITTLE ROCK – The state is now offering help to low-income families who have fallen behind on their rent because of financial problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Arkansas Rental Relief Program is run by the state Human Services Department, which will distribute about $173 million in federal funds to renters and landlords.

The financial help can be used for paying past due rent, or for future rent payments. It can also help pay for utilities such as water bills, light bills and gas bills, but not for Internet and telephone bills.

People who qualify can use the assistance for up to 15 months of rent and utilities incurred between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021.

Renters can get rental assistance if someone in the household qualifies for unemployment benefits, or if the household income decreased during the pandemic or someone in the home went through significant financial hardship due to the pandemic.

Also, a family qualifies if its income is under a certain threshold, which depends on the average income of the county in which they live and the number of people in the household.

To learn more and to apply for help, search on the Internet for Also, you can call 855-RENTARK between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday the phone lines are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Not only can you pay past due rent through the program, you can use funding to pay up to 5 percent of late fees incurred after April 1, 2020.

You will need to provide an ID, such as a driver’s license, and proof that you are renting, such as a lease or rental contract. That agreement should include the landlord’s phone number and email address.

If you have received an eviction notice or a past due notice, you can qualify because your family is at risk of being homeless or going through “housing instability.”

Also, you will need to show proof that you went through financial hardship because of the pandemic. Finally, you need to show proof of income for everyone in your house who files tax returns. Your landlord must cooperate by applying along with you.

Virtual Learning

The Arkansas Charter Authorizing Panel has recommended changes in charter school language that will guide charter schools next year if they want to enroll more students in virtual learning.

Charters will have a more definite idea of maximum class sizes, how many students can be assigned to an individual teacher, minimum hours of instruction that are offered in a day and lesson planning.

For the current school year, officials at the state and local levels improvised in order to implement new rules governing virtual classrooms.

The changes recommended by the Charter Authorizing Panel will allow officials to better plan for whatever virtual classes that may be in demand in the 2021-2022 school year.

The changes endorsed by the Charter Panel will be considered by the state Board of Education at its June meeting. One member of the state Board, while discussing the plans endorsed by the Charter Panel, compared last year’s improvisations as “the wild, wild west.”


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