Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce Call Notes with Congressional Delegation Regarding Covid-19 Preparations, Updates, and more
COVID-19 Call with Congressional Delegation 3/20/2020
The State Chamber/AIA hosted a call this morning with the entire Arkansas Congressional Delegation — Senators Boozman and Cotton and Representatives Crawford, Hill, Westerman and Womack. Arkansas business leaders and chamber of commerce representatives also participated.
Below is a summary of what was covered:
State Chamber President & CEO Randy Zook provided opening remarks and then asked each member of the delegation to speak.
Sen. Boozman – communication is so important. This is a situation not seen since WWII. Two battles, keeping people safe, and keeping the financial structure and the economy going. Liquidity is paramount. Congress is looking to help liquidity. He asked for ideas from the group and asked people to tell the delegation about their needs.
Sen. Cotton – doing everything in Congress and the Federal Reserve to prevent a liquidity crisis turning into a financial solvency crisis. There will not be any unimpacted business. They want to help every business and also help all families. Hopefully, the the COVID-19 cases can be spread out so they do not overload the medical care providers. The Senate hopes to have something done (a Phase III bill) by the end of the weekend.
Rep. Crawford – agreed with both Senators and added that farmers are having issues with general market access compounded by labor problems. Looking to extend H2B visas that already exist. Virtually every business is affected, including independent contractors, 1099 earners, who need relief too.
Rep. Hill – agreed with the Senators’ summary. All his calls other than the health issues have been about liquidity and funding for small businesses. The proposed McConnell draft Phase III bill in the Senate focuses on that.
Rep. Womack – everyone will be impacted, the entire spectrum of the economy. Have great concerns with rural hospitals, agriculture, healthcare and industry. Anxious for Senate negotiations to get done so they can find out what is included and move forward.
Rep. Westerman – he’s getting tons of calls, with liquidity and regulations the most pressing. Examples of regulatory issues are physicals for truck drivers, continuing education and crop insurance needs. The Senate put out a bill last night that the House is trying to dissect.
Zook said that his colleagues in other states were astounded that all members of a delegation would come together for a call like this.
What will be considered essential if there is a general shutdown? Is there a list?
Sen. Boozman said all healthcare is essential as well as the food chain. Also need to maintain a supply chain for deliveries.
Sen. Cotton suggested as non-essential any retail consumer businesses except grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies. We also need the supply chain, truckers, and business-to-business operations like power plants, water, sanitation, support businesses, manufacturing and agriculture to continue. He suggested that listeners take a look at the guidelines that have been developed in California and Ohio in regard to this.
Will more COVID-19 tests soon be available and how quickly?
Rep. Hill said UAMS’ in-house testing went live last night and they will be able to do 240 a day. Private labs are providing faster turnarounds of test results in 24 hours. He is more concerned about the turnaround of the test results, not the quantity of tests available, as it takes four days to get the results.
What’s the status of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) availability for manufacturers?
Rep. Westerman said efforts are being made to both produce and purchase more PPE. Some medical providers are trying to buy from businesses. There is a real shortage. Some businesses in his district could retool and make PPE. A couple businesses are able to make hand sanitizer.
Rep. Womack said Glatfelter in Fort Smith, which makes baby wipes, can retool and make face masks. He expects that other manufacturers across the country will be able to retool to make PPE.
SBA and other help loans: How soon can we expect the money to arrive?
Rep. Hill said Gov. Hutchinson signed an emergency declaration Tuesday, so loans can go through the SBA. Arkansas’s senators have worked with another senator on language in the new Senate bill. He said disaster loans through SBA are now available. The Senate proposal will expand the 7A loan process regarding amounts, re-financing existing debt, and move more quickly. The new bill will also modify express loans up to $1 million and can refinance certain loans and extend deadlines. It will also apply to non-profits and the self-employed. Private and public non-profits, including chambers of commerce, would be covered.
Sen. Boozman said everyone is working hard to get this bill together and Randy Zook’s comment that this is hitting the sweet spot is very helpful. Zook said AEDC has a COVID-19 section on their website that has about $16 million in loans available.
Rep. Hill said private and public non-profits will be eligible as long as they are not supported by government resources.
Any chance or consideration of reducing or eliminating the collection of Unemployment Insurance (UI) taxes?
Sen. Boozman said everything is on the table. Their emphasis is on liquidity and getting money out as quickly as possible.
Will refunds on tax returns that are already filed arrive quickly?
Sen. Cotton said yes. The postponement of all payments required is designed to help liquidity, as is getting the refunds out quickly.
Can the delegation speak about how all businesses can be seen as dealing with the crisis in regard to both the public and employees?
Sen. Boozman said communication is key to dealing with the challenges that we face. The unknown is the time frame and how long this will go on. It’s a worldwide problem. Healthcare is planning for the worst. The federal government is doing a great job as are state and local governments. We all need to work together. He emphasized the need for everyone to communicate with the Congressional Delegation.
Rep. Womack asked Sen. Boozman how long the Senate will take on the new bill and when can the House expect to come back to vote?
Sen. Boozman said it’s a $1 trillion measure, but that’s not the issue. It’s the policy. The Senate is working on it expeditiously and can hopefully get it finished in the next day or two.
Rep. Hill said all businesses and families are on the front line of defeating this virus. The government can only provide recommendations and care and protection for the medical community. He emphasized the need to follow CDC guidelines. The push is for the next two to three weeks in order to bend the curve down. Everyone has a responsibility.
Rep. Womack expressed appreciation for everyone being on the call and said there would be more to come.
ep. Westerman said that a month ago we had one of the strongest economies ever seen, so the underlying strength is there. We just need to get through this. He thinks the economy will come roaring back when this is all over. The full weight of the federal government is being applied to fight this virus. He likened the virus to a foreign invader and expressed his appreciation for the call.
Rep. Crawford also expressed his appreciation for the call and the feedback. He said that the Congressional Delegation is ready to be a resource on whatever help is needed and don’t hesitate to call.
Randy Zook said the people we represent are very grateful for this call.
1. The Division of Workforce Services began the process of modifying existing claims filing procedures to address a sudden surge in the number of workers who will need to file unemployment insurance claims and to simply the claims filing process.
2. These changes include offering additional ways for affected workers to file their unemployment claims. Any affected worker may file their unemployment insurance claim:
Online at www.ezarc.dws.arkansas.gov
By telephone by calling their nearest Arkansas Workforce Center directly or by calling
In person by visiting their nearest Workforce Center. (sites are on the ADWS and AEDC website.
3. We are asking for your patience and understanding as we are experiencing delays in the EZARC online application system. Currently the hub is being saturated from all States, DC and Territories due to the COVID-19. This is unprecedented times but everything possible is being done to respond to all transactions. States are being asked to only enter a Social once and not several times.
4. By Monday, March 23, 2020, a Temporary Claims Processing Hotline will be available for affected workers who require assistance in filing their unemployment claims. The Temporary Claims Processing Hotline can be reached at 1-844-908-2178 or 501-534-6304. This hotline will ensure that ADWS can continue to provide timely and responsive services to our customers while minimizing the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 by our customers and ADWS staff. These changes will result in enable Arkansans to file unemployment insurance claims, register for work, and seek job placement assistance in a timely manner while dispensing with the need for those customers to physically report to an Arkansas Workforce Center to file or manage their unemployment insurance claims.
5. To reduce service delays, individuals who have general questions regarding the unemployment insurance program are encouraged to visit www.dws.arkansas.gov first, in lieu of calling ADWS.
6. ADWS will continue to monitor federal legislation and the COVID-19 Pandemic and continue to reassess and refine program operations to best achieve the Unemployment Insurance program’s mission to provide rapid and accurate service to affected Arkansans.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: CDC and Other Health Officials are not Going Door-to-Door Performing Tests
LITTLE ROCK – While Arkansans are staying home in an attempt to prevent infection and spread of the COVID-19 virus, con artists are out and about going door-to-door targeting frightened senior citizens. Posing as employees of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these scammers knock on your door and offer to scan you for the COVID-19 virus at a cost of $50. These con artists, who are not licensed medical professionals, swab your nasal cavity and pretend to perform a medical test while you watch. To obtain your “test results,” the scammers ask for your banking information, including credit and debit card numbers, and social security number.
“It is unbelievable that con artists use the fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to target Arkansans, especially senior citizens,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The CDC and other health officials are not going door-to-door and performing tests. Arkansans should consult their trusted health care provider or the Arkansas Department of Health regarding COVID-19 testing.”
The Attorney General’s Office confirmed that the CDC is not going door-to-door for testing. Arkansas residents encountering someone at their door stating that they are there to test them for the COVID-19 virus should immediately call local law enforcement and file a consumer complaint with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office.
Lauren Siebert, Areawide News reporter, was honored at the 2019 Spring River Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards & Recognition Banquet on February 4, 2020 with several top awards, including the E.Wilson Green Award and the Volunteer of the Year Award.
When Lauren was presented with the award from Susan Jett , who was one of the recipients last year, her attention was directed at the side of the room where her parents were standing. “Here I was at 30 years old being honored with an award you get once in a lifetime,” Lauren Siebert mused, “ and when I saw my parents, whom I was not expecting as they were supposed to be out of town, I almost lost my mind! Here I was surrounded by my parents, grandmother, friends and people I highly respect sharing this highlight of my life with me!”
Previously, SRACC President Ethan Barnes had presented her with his Volunteer of the Year Award, whom is chosen by the president to the volunteer that has supported the chamber the most. “It is a difficult decision because there are so many hard working board members that donated their time throughout the year, but Lauren is always the first to step up when needed without being asked, and she has brought in more new chamber members in the last two years than any other volunteer. She highly deserved this recognition.”
Ty Rowland, son of Pam and Jeremy Rowland, won the Future Leader Award which was started last year to honor a young person who has provided excellent service to the community. State Representative Fran Cavenaugh sponsored the Future Leader Award and presented each of the nominees a coin from the House of Representatives. This is the second year this award was given.
Member of the Year Awards were presented to Ozark Classic Crafts Mall (Bronze); Mike Watson State Farm Insurance – Highland and Melbourne offices (Silver); First Community Bank (Gold); Ozarka College (Platinum); Mission of Hope (Nonprofit), and Kasey Carter (Individual).
The 2019 Photo Contest had two winners, the 2020 Annual Guide Cover Award was won by Chuck Averwater, and the People’s Choice Award was won by Leigh LaCaze.
The 2020 Banquet was held at the BPOE Highland Elks Lodge and was the highest attended banquet with over 270 tickets sold. The Chicken Florentine dinner was catered by Artisan Grill. Guest speaker Dr. Shane Hunt, professor in sales leadership and marketing at Arkansas State University, gave a fabulous presentation about brand building, which really starts with how others perceive you or your company.
SRACC President Barnes emceed the event that also included a summary of the chamber’s 2019 accomplishments and goals for 2020. Executive Director Kari Hollis announced the chamber has literally doubled in size in the last couple of years and is offering members more and more benefits in advertising, promotion, shop local events, member-to-member discount program, and Blue Ribbon Welcomes.
The SRACC is thankful for thier sponsors, which included the WRMC Medical Complex as the Awards Sponsor, and the following Table Sponsors: Art Center of North Arkansas; Centennial Bank; City of Cherokee Village; Coldwell Bankers Ozark Real Estate Co.; State Representative Fran Cavenaugh/Future Leader nominees; Highland Assembly; King-Rhodes & Associates Real Estate; Mike Watson State Farm Insurance – Highland & Melbourne offices; North Arkansas Electric Cooperative; Ozark Classic Crafts Mall; Ozark Gateway Realty, OGWLLC; Ozarka College; Triple R Pawn and Bail Bonds; Spring River Draft House; St. Bernards First Care – Highland; Tri-County Farm & Ranch Supply, and WRMC Medical Complex.
The SRACC 2020 Board of Directors was installed and include: Ethan Barnes, President; Lauren Siebert, 1st Vice President; Kasey Carter, Secretary; Laura Clute, Treasurer; Eddie Ishmael, Past President; and directors Debra Ball, Joey Cooper, Nathan Criss, Marc Herring, Fred Holzhauer, Susan Jett, Angela Phipps, Rhonda Messer, Jody Smotherman and Clint Wiles.
The silent auction was a huge success that raised over $1,800 with items donated by Ozark Gateway Realty Ozarka College, B&B Supply, Platinum Rive, r Hardy Village Antiques, Ozark Classic Crafts Mall, Progressive Eye Center, Spring River Draft House, Biggers Bed & Breakfast, Centennial Bank, Arts Center of North Arkansas, The Master’s Bouquet & Christian Book Store; Twomey PC Repair; Leaves & Beans; Triple D Package Store; Frontier Lanes; The Tanning Bed, FNBC, and Rox Outfitters. Also , Dr. Shane Hunt donated a signed book. And the 50/50 raffle netted $296 for the Scholarship Fund.
Congratulations to Chuck Averwater for winning the 2019 SRACC Photo Contest with this beautiful entry:
and Leigh LaCaze for winning the 2019 People’s Choice Photo Contest with this entry:
The SRACC has put together a list of dining options, local events, music and other places of interest to have available for tourists and guests. Please download the attached pdf and copy, or send an email to the chamber requesting the form.
If any information is found to be inaccurate or you think we should add something, please let us know. Please note revision date at bottom to make sure you have the latest version.SRACC Spring River Area Tourism Info