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(L to R) Ray Hanley, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care CEO; Marquita Little, Health Policy Advisor for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families; and Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics.
Talk Business and Politics

Ray Hanley with Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care and Marquita Little with Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families discuss with Roby Brock of Talk Business a new Arkansas Works study that examines how the work requirement for Medicaid will impact Arkansans.


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A recent study suggests that access to Pre-K for young Arkansans is among the top in the nation.  But, the state still has a long way to go when it comes to their development further along in their education.


Arkansas is one of just a few states that is choosing to implement work-related requirements, in order for people to keep getting health insurance through Medicaid. The state also stands out for requiring that the verification process be done online.

That could mean trouble for low-income beneficiaries, who happen to live in a state with some of the worst access to the internet in the nation. The rollout of the new requirements begins June 1st.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In his bid for re-election, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he’s helped bring more than 60,000 jobs to the state since taking office. Of course, not all jobs are the same. As part of Arkansas Public Media's ongoing partnership with the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas, assistant professor Rob Wells and his students investigated wages in Northwest Arkansas and sought out low-wage workers in and around the flagship university campus for a multimedia project called “Working for Low Wages in Arkansas.” Click to learn more.

Twenty-five percent of families are considered to be in poverty in Northwest Arkansas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and many of them are working for a living.

What is that like? How do these people make ends meet?

A group of University of Arkansas journalism students set out this semester to examine life for people living at or close to minimum wage. 

Arkansas is at the forefront of a national experiment to see whether requiring work for health care coverage helps lift people out of poverty.

 

Starting next month, many who are on the state’s low-income health care program, Arkansas Works, must show they are working, volunteering, in school, or getting job training for at least 80 hours each month. The Arkansas Department of Human Services estimates 42,000 Arkansans will be impacted.

A recent study published by Child Trends found that 56 percent of children in Arkansas have had at least one adverse childhood experience, or ACE, compared to the national average of 45 percent. That's the highest of any state in the nation. An ACE is defined as a "potentially traumatic event, ranging from abuse and neglect to living with an adult with a mental illness. They can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being in childhood or later in life."

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UA Walton College of Business economist Mervin Jebaraj said the strong population growth in Arkansas metropolitan areas is a welcome trend, but he warns that a downside is the struggle to find affordable housing.

A fungus called white-nose syndrome has killed millions of cave-dwelling bats in the eastern U.S. and Canada and is now aggressively spreading across the South, including the karst-rich Ozarks and its abundant caves.

The irritating white, feathery fungus grows on the warm snouts and wings of hibernating bats, rousing them from winter torpor. Infected bats often flutter, disoriented, out of  protective caves where they may freeze or starve to death.

A federal task force which formed in 2011 to track and manage the epidemic is finally starting to see a glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel.

Chicot County Courthouse.  1956 Art Deco-inspired county courthouse.
Brandonrush / Wikipedia

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Recent census figures show that many of Arkansas' smaller counties shrank in population, but larger counties saw growth.

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The Jonesboro City Council took its first look at a new sidewalk ordinance Tuesday night.   Alderman Joe Haffner says the new ordinance that he supports would require that all future development in Jonesboro have sidewalks.  

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A federally funded study focusing on two Arkansas cities will serve as an outline for statewide efforts to reduce pedestrian deaths.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission is expected to close a docket soon that could substantially lower a cash incentive for Arkansans (and Arkansas companies) who invest in solar and wind energy production.

The commission is the representative authority over investor-owned utilities, sanctioned monopolies. The commission can affect utility rates — that is, bills. The docket’s been open for three years.

At issue is something called “net metering,” the act of sending electricity (generated by solar power system or windmill) out onto the grid from home or business and getting bill credits from the electrical utility. Created by Act 1781 of 2001, Arkansas’s net metering rate structure currently is 1-to-1. 

A bill is up for vote by the general assembly  that would protect hog farmers from lawsuits for certain environmental issues once their waste permits are approved.

The legislation was approved by the Arkansas General Assembly today, and it's meant to reassure hog farmers as well as the banks who lend them money.

NPR

Arkansas Department of Human Services Director Cindy Gillespie was in a cheerful mood by week’s end as the Arkansas legislature undramatically passed her agency’s often-controversial budget thanks to federal officials approving one of the state’s two major waiver requests for Medicaid expansion.

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NEW MADRID, Mo. (AP) — A Swiss-based company will open an aluminum smelter in the Missouri Bootheel region, creating up to 400 jobs in one of the state's most impoverished areas.

Arkansas State Capitol
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers voted Wednesday to keep the state's Medicaid expansion another year after federal officials said the state can require people on the program to work or volunteer to keep their coverage.

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Bridge work along a two-mile stretch of I-555 in Poinsett County will continue for quite a while.  

The Trump administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has at long-last made its decision to add a work requirement for certain low-income people if they way to keep getting health insurance through Arkansas’s version of Medicaid expansion, known as Arkansas Works. The announcement was made Monday at the state’s Capitol building.

CMS Director Seema Verma personally signed and hand-delivered the federal agency’s letter to Governor Asa Hutchinson granting the state’s request.

Governor Asa Hutchinson promoted the idea of teachers being armed in schools at a meeting with President Trump on Monday and called for federal terrorist-fighting funds to be redirected locally to schools. The President, who was hosting a few dozen governors during the National Governors Association annual winter meeting, indirectly responded by saying deporting gang members is part of the solution.

Brandon Tabor, KASU News

The City of Jonesboro has new zoning laws for future development of residential property. 

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson with Roby Brock of Talk Business and Politics
Talk Business and Politics

Rising pharmacy reimbursement rates are a part of the cost structure between pharmacist, health insurance plans, and a group known as PBMs—Pharmacy Benefits Managers.  Roby Brock with Talk Business sits down with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to talk about potential legislative remedies for this seemingly dire situation as a private solution may be in the works.


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Recent state figures show the average cost per person of subsidized private health insurance under Arkansas Works increased more than 14 percent last month.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the spike is in part due to premium increases that had taken effect Jan. 1.

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ST. LOUIS (AP) - The grounds of the iconic Gateway Arch in St. Louis may soon have a new name: The Gateway Arch National Park.

Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill said Thursday that their legislation to rename the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial as the Gateway Arch National Park is now in the hands of President Donald Trump.

The measure passed the Senate on Dec. 21, and passed the House Wednesday.

Blunt says renaming the park will make it "more immediately recognizable to the millions of people who visit St. Louis every year."

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Tennessee are pushing legislation to exempt gun safes from the state's sales tax.

At a news conference Monday, Republican Sen. Kerry Roberts of Springfield said the bill shows how the state Senate can find common ground and work in a bipartisan manner.

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Lee Harris of Memphis said the bill would help address accidental shootings and gun thefts.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Federal regulators said Monday they will let Arkansas enforce a portion of its own haze-reduction program, prompting criticism from environmentalists who say the plan is too weak.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved Arkansas' proposal for reducing nitrogen oxide, which with sulfur dioxide contributes to haze. Additional parts of the state's haze-reduction plan are still under review.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked Arkansas the most obese state in the nation in 2014, the state’s weight epidemic is now leveling off, and health officials hope obesity rates will start to go down.

Arkansas State University Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse (left) speaking with Arkansas Lt. Governor Tim Griffin (right) in the Beck PRIDE Center for wounded veterans.
Cynthia Barnhill / KASU Photojournalim-Graphics Designer Intern

Helping veterans readjust to life after service.  On Thursday, Arkansas Lt. Governor Tim Griffin visited a resource for veterans on the Arkansas State University campus.  

The Beck PRIDE Center provides programs and services for wounded combat veterans.  Rehabilitation, social re-integration, and educational preparation take place at the center.  Griffin, who is a veteran himself, praised the center.  He said a lot of colleges and universities across the nation are not as friendly to veterans.

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Several road improvement projects totaling over $3.2 million are expected to begin in the next 2 to 4 weeks in Northeast Arkansas. 

In news releases Thursday from the Arkansas Department of Transportation, crews will be working in Craighead, Greene, Lawrence, and Mississippi counties.  In Jonesboro, 2.5 miles of U.S. Highway 63B and State Highway 463 from Watt St. to Ingles Road will be resurfaced. 

State Highway 135 will have 3.1 miles resurfaced in Greene County beginning at the Craighead County line and moving northbound.

Coast Guard Sector Lower Mississippi River and local agencies are responding to a sunken vessel discharging oil near mile marker 823 on the lower Mississippi River near Blytheville, Arkansas, January 24, 2017. Sector Lower Mississippi River watchstanders
Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Giles / U.S. Coast Guard

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Coast Guard is responding to a sunken vessel discharging oil near mile marker 823 on the lower Mississippi River near Blytheville, Arkansas, Wednesday.

Coast Guard Sector Lower Mississippi River watchstanders were notified by Terral River Service at 5:35 a.m. of the uninspected towing vessel Virginia Renee sunk at its mooring at Hickman Landing. The Virginia Renee has a reported 10,000 gallons of diesel aboard.

Involved in the response are:

Talk Business & Politics

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas' congressional delegation has asked U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry to block plans for a power line across the state, arguing that recent setbacks make it unlikely for the project to continue.

Delegation members sent a letter to Perry on Tuesday urging the Energy Department to either "pause or terminate" the $2.5 billion Clean Line Energy project. The project is expected to bring several hundred miles of wind power lines through Arkansas, which landowners say would lower property values.

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