LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The federal government allocated millions of dollars in federal rental assistance for Arkansas. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced Friday he plans to decline a chunk of it.
“Our economy has returned,” Hutchinson said. “We cannot accept $146 million of additional money and expect to get that out and effectively use that in the state.”
Arkansas will be one of only two states to reject the full funding. Hutchinson said he in instead asking for money that can be flexibly used by two nonprofits. Arkansas lawmakers were split along party lines in their reaction.
“I think it’s a great first step, but I’d like to see the governor go all the way,” said State. Sen. Trent Garner (R).
Garner said people who are struggling to pay rent should begin working for higher wages in openings across the state. He said inflationary concerns should be a priority for the state.
“Taking hundreds of millions of dollars in additional federal handouts doesn’t do anything to help Arkansas,” Garner said. “What it does is hurt us even worse.”
Others said they were surprised when they heard Hutchinson’s announcement.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, and I can’t read his mind,” said Rep. Monte Hodges (D). “I hope it’s not political.”
Hodges said he’s spoken to people within his district who struggle to pay rent, and he knows the second round of Emergency Rental Assistance could help.
“I know the needs are there for this assistance, so to reject money that would help the people of Arkansas, I just can’t wrap my mind around it,” Hodges said.
Hutchinson said he thinks targeted relief funneled to at least two nonprofits in the state could help.