Arkansas Department of Education applies for federal waiver for all students to receive free meals

Coronavirus

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson and Education Secretary Johnny Key announced Wednesday the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) has applied for a Department of Agriculture waiver that would allow all school students to be served meals free of cost through the end of the year.

Secretary Key also said the state could waive meal pattern requirements and it would allow parents to pick up meals for their students.

Key said his department will work with school districts who wish to opt in.

According to Secretary Key, the districts could claim all students in the free meal rate.

Key said families who don’t qualify are still suffering due to the pandemic.

The education secretary also said this would eliminate the administrative burden on nutrition staff and allow them to focus on nutrition staff.

Key said parents will need to work with the school districts by completing and submitting meal applications.

According to Key, the estimated cost through December is $80 million for reimbursements through December.

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday afternoon there are an additional 615 COVID-19 cases and 27 deaths. That brings the state’s total to 62,112 cumulative COVID-19 cases and 841 deaths.

Secretary of Health Dr. José Romero said 13 of the 27 deaths announced Wednesday were delayed reports. According to Dr. Romero, one report was from May, four were from June, four were from July and four were from early August.

According to Dr. Romero, the counties with the most newly-reported cases are Washington County (67), Pulaski County (62), Benton County (60), Craighead County (49), Garland County (26), Saline County (21) and Mississippi County (20).

Governor Hutchinson said there are 435 people in hospitals across the state due to the coronavirus, which is an increase of 12.

Governor Hutchinson said 4,773 tests were completed within the last 24 hours.

Hutchinson announced antigen tests and antigen positives will be reported publicly and to the CDC. According to State Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, not all states do this.

Governor Hutchinson said the economic numbers are better than what was forecasted for the State of Arkansas. The governor said the August net is $41 million above forecast and over the first two months of the fiscal year, the state is $93.7 million above forecast. Hutchinson said this means people have confidence in going back to work and consumer purchasing. Governor Hutchinson said the state will still have a tight reign on the budget due to uncertain times.

The governor also talked about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing a moratorium of evictions due to nonpayment because of the coronavirus. Hutchinson said it’s a very broad-based order. It goes into effect on Friday. According to Governor Hutchinson, it does not prevent people from having to pay rent or added late fees. The governor urged people who are struggling to pay rent to go to their local Community Action Agency and nonprofits because they have some funds for assistance. Governor Hutchinson said the Department Human Services to nonprofits and Community Action Agencies to provide rental assistance. The federal government has also provided $675,000 to public housing agencies.

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