Zuzanna Sitek

Reporter, Ozarks at Large

On today's show, we speak with Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston about the state of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program after the passage of a third federal stimulus bill. Plus, we learn about a number of bills making their way through the Arkansas legislature, including a proposal that would allow college-level athletes to make money off of their name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness. And, we head to southwest Benton County where the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust is preserving three parcels of land in historic Springtown.

Courtesy / Arkansas Department of Commerce

The Arkansas Commerce Department is considering calling in the National Guard to help the Division of Workforce Services go through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims. Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston says the number of claims had leveled out toward the end of last year, but changes to the program in the last two stimulus bills could require additional personnel to go through applications that had already been submitted.

On today's show, we get a breakdown of the programs that will be available to businesses, families and individuals following the passage of the American Rescue Plan, which is the third federal stimulus package of the pandemic. Plus, we learn about a bill that would reduce voting hours on Saturdays and close voting centers and polling places in Arkansas on Mondays before Election Day. And, we have part two of our conversation with Randy Dixon of the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History about what it's like to be the First Lady of Arkansas.

Courtesy / City of Fayetteville

The American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden earlier this month includes programs aimed at specifically helping restaurant and venue owners impacted by the pandemic. Devin Howland, the director of economic vitality for the City of Fayetteville, breaks down the assistance that will be available to businesses, as well as families and individuals in the coming weeks.

On today's show, we check in with Michael Tilley of Talk Business and Politics, who tells us not enough supply is driving up both demand and prices in the Arkansas River Valley housing market. Plus, we speak with a researcher at UAMS Northwest about creating a new "centering" pregnancy program to help resolve chronic maternal health disparities experienced by Marshallese women. And, we head to Fort Smith where, after three years, a nonprofit cat rescue moves from Facebook page to shelter facility with community space instead of cages.

Z. Sitek / KUAF

Three years ago, Jennifer Grayston bought an old gas station at the corner of Jenny Lind Road and Dallas Street in Fort Smith with the dream of turning it into a cage-less cat shelter. This weekend, Jen's Kitty Rehab, which has been operating as a nonprofit on Facebook, will open to the public with a week of activities that include a silent auction, yoga, art, live music and movies. All with cats, of course.

On today's show, we speak with a Benton County justice of the peace about his proposal to use part of a federal CARES Act reimbursement to help small businesses. Plus, we hear from advocates, who say Arkansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities were left out of the conversation during COVID-19 vaccine rollout planning. And, the pandemic may have upended last year's NCAA basketball tournament, but March Madness is back and both the men's and women's Razorback basketball teams are in the mix. We talk with from experts and fans.

Members of the Benton County Quorum Court have agreed to form a seven-person subcommittee to discuss using a million dollars of a $3.8 million CARES Act reimbursement to the county to help small businesses. The proposal was made by Justice of the Peace Joseph Bollinger, R-District 7, who says the county should not be sitting on taxpayer money when small business owners need financial assistance.

On today's show, we speak with two Washington County justices of the peace about what they believe are the best uses for $4.5 in CARES Act reimbursement funding as the Quorum Court remains deeply divided on the issue. Plus, we find out why the Democratic Party of Arkansas is once again lowering its candidate filing fees. And, we learn about the rare white American bison that now resides at nearby Dogwood Canyon Nature Park in Missouri.

Courtesy / Washington County

Washington County justices of the peace remain divided on the best ways to use a $4.5 million reimbursement from the first round of federal CARES Act funding distributed by the state. Since much of the items the county was reimbursed for were included in the 2020 budget, Democrats on the Quorum Court want to see the money go toward small business aid, hunger relief efforts, and rental and mortgage assistance. The Republican majority says the financial impacts on the county are not fully known and the money should be used for near and long-term county expenses.