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UAMS and renters to receive additional pandemic support, Gov. Hutchinson says

Gov. Asa Hutchinson made two major announcements Wednesday: the military is sending help to UAMS and the state is streamlining rental assistance requests.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced in his briefing Wednesday that Arkansas is bringing in military reinforcement to help with the state's battle against the coronavirus.

This means that 20 new medical military personnel will be temporarily joining the UAMS staff.

"We will be receiving a 20 person medical military team from the Department of Defense that will be sent to UAMS to assist with staffing needs," said Hutchinson.

The temporary military support coming in Thursday will include 14 nurses (4 focused on critical care), 4 physicians, and 2 respiratory therapists.

Medical staff at UAMS said this should provide much needed relief.

"We'll see an improvement in the work life of our clinical staff, which means that everybody should see an improvement in morale and care," said Dr. Steppe Mette, Senior Vice Chancellor for UAMS Health and Chief Executive Officer for UAMS Medical Center.

This new staffing also comes alongside additional funding which will increase hospital patient capacity.

"We will have 27 new ICU beds coming online in September, so we're trying to get ahead of the curve if there is a curve that goes up," said Hutchinson. 

He also announced that additional staff support will be coming to the state's rental assistance program.

To be exact, 70 additional staffers will join the state's rental assistance team, which is now comprised of 160 staff members: all of them working on nearly 12,000 applications that still need to be reviewed.

This does not include Pulaski, Benton, or Washington county which combined make up nearly one third of the state's population and utilize relief programs specific to their respective areas.

The policy changes come in an effort to speed up the process of getting relief money into the hands of renters. Prior to these changes, less than 5% of the state's allocated relief funds had actually been distributed.

"First of all, the applications for those who have received eviction notices will be prioritized. The second change is, funds can be paid to eligible tenants even if landlords do not submit required information," said Hutchinson.

THV11 reached out to Pulaski County to ask if they would consider adopting these new policies as well, but they did not have a comment at this time.