Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a change in education policy on Tuesday.
He said people who have been fully vaccinated, including students and teachers, will not have to quarantine next school year if they are exposed to COVID-19.
The announcement was made during the governor’s weekly media briefing. He said the change in policy is consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Hutchinson and Arkansas Secretary of Health, Dr. José Romero, both followed up that information by encouraging younger people to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. They said only about 10 percent of eligible younger Arkansans, ages 12-18, have been vaccinated.
The Arkansas Department of Health reported 231 new COVID-19 cases in the state as of Tuesday.
Hutchinson also announced a 3 percent bonus for state agencies to be distributed to employees based on performance.
“This last year our workforce has shown dedication, resilience and flexibility during this pandemic,” Hutchinson said. “It’s been circumstances that no workforce has been through in the last 100 years. From the Department of Health workers who have worked extraordinarily long hours under difficult circumstances, to workforce services that’s worked on a front-serving basis to get the pandemic and employment insurance out, to our Department of Human Service caseworkers that have helped to take care of children, even during a pandemic, I’m very pleased that we’ll be giving the agencies a 3 percent performance or merit pay raise that they can use to distribute to high performing and qualified employees.”
Hutchinson said this is the largest performance pay amount since he became governor, and that it will go into the base salary of employees so that it is not a one-time bonus. The cost to the state is $11.2 million of state general revenue and $28 million from all sources, which includes federal sources.
Hutchinson also touched on the announcement last week that Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith will become the training site for Singapore’s foreign military sales F-16 and F-35 aircrews.
He said what this announcement will mean for the River Valley area of Arkansas is 825 new personnel, 180 from Singapore, and $800 million to $1 billion in economic impact annually to the state, which he said represents a 20 percent increase in the economic impact from military bases in the state.
Securing the training mission meant there needed to be an increase of 1,300 feet of runway at a cost of $22 million, however. Hutchinson said the state has committed to $17 million for the project, and Fort Smith has committed the other $5 million.