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Arkansas to end COVID-19 federal unemployment benefits next week

Eight states are losing their federal unemployment benefits on Saturday. Arkansas is not too far behind as it will end its benefits next week.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Dillon Garcia is the co-owner of The Pizzeria in the Heights. We last spoke to him a month ago when it was first announced that the federal unemployment benefits would expire in June. 

"We're down to two cooks right now," Garcia said. "Normally on a Friday night I'd have four, two cooks is just what we have right now."

Garcia has been struggling to find workers to hire and said that it's getting worse. The Pizzeria was open 7 days a week before the pandemic. 

A month ago the restaurant was down to 6 days a week. Currently, it's only open 5 days to prevent the staff from getting burned out.

The federal benefits were set to expire for all states in September, but Governor Hutchinson decided Arkansas would opt out of the program at the end of June.

"The decision was made while the benefits were nice and really helped during that most critical time during the pandemic. We're at a point now where our economy is fully back open," Arkansas Secretary of Commerce, Mike Preston, said.

Secretary Preston said since the economy is running again, the only thing holding it back further is the number of job applicants.

There are other benefits and resources Arkansans can utilize if they need extra help.

"Through other government programs there are funds available through SNAP benefits or other Department of Health or Department of Human Services benefits," Preston said. "There are traditional unemployment benefits through the state that will continue."

Garcia hopes cutting back the unemployment money will help to get more applications at his door.

"I do hope that it will bring in some more people to the workforce," Garcia said. "Right now, we are willing to shape and mold somebody as long as they have that potential in them."