Arkansas Governor Announces Benefit Bank

By Guest Contributor

First posted on 10-15-2007

From Governor Beebe:

In Arkansas each year, $280 million in benefits and tax refunds, the majority of which are federal, are left unclaimed. Sadly, the major reason is the complexity of the benefit-application process. Most people seeking benefits are working or are looking for employment, and since benefit-application offices are typically open only during business hours, many eligible persons find it extremely difficult to apply. Others seeking benefits have families and complex child-care arrangements that leave little time during the typical 8:00 to 5:00 workday. They may also have limited transportation and problems in securing resources needed for daily life.

To help ease these problems, the benefit-bank program is about meeting the clients where they are. It is about providing as many opportunities as possible for our working families to succeed. The Benefit Bank empowers local communities to reach out and provide a hand-up to our working families.

The Benefit Bank will set up various sites at churches, food banks, public libraries, and other public places that working families visit. The goal is to establish a pilot program in seven diverse counties. After one year of implementation, research of proven results, strategic planning, and my authorization, the Benefit Bank will expand into Arkansas’s remaining 68 counties.

My office, in partnership with the Arkansas Interfaith Conference, Department of Workforce Services, and Department of Human Services, believes that to serve the working families in Arkansas, we must create points of access that already have the involvement and trust of those in need and can offer service in places and times that are convenient for our citizens.

Arkansas Interfaith Conference is a nonprofit, faith-based organization. It has been in existence for more than 30 years and has the capacity and experience to facilitate the Benefit Bank. AIC will serve as the fiscal agent for the project, and, therefore, the State has provided AIC funding to create a software program that will combine eligibility standards for federal and state benefits.

The Benefit Bank has a nine-member Board of Directors, who have oversight of the project, from the finances to the development of the program in various counties. Reverend Stephen Copley, former President of the AIC, is the chair of the board. The Benefit Bank Board of Directors will determine a place to lease, so that the administration and communication of the program can be carried out.

Innovative and effective programs make State government work best for everyone. The Benefit Bank will provide our working families with access to the benefits they need to move toward financial stability. It takes all of us, working together, to create a State that rewards work and encourages responsibility. Thank you for joining in that effort.