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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — The state Capitol is shown in this file photo.

A state panel appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday recommended using $165 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to shore up the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund.

Department of Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said this request would minimize the expected tax increases on employers related to the covid-19 pandemic.

A Division of Workforce Services official said shoring up the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund would prevent $10 million in increased costs to employers.

With Sen. Will Bond, D-Little Rock, and Rep. Fred Allen, D-Little Rock, dissenting, the 15-member steering committee appointed by the Republican governor to recommend the best use of $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds voted to recommend using $165 million of the funds to shore up the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund.

Bond and Allen said they felt the steering committee, which suspended its rules to consider the $165 million request, was rushing a decision and the steering committee should consider other state needs amid the covid-19 pandemic.

But Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and other committee members said it’s imperative to provide relief to businesses struggling to make it through the pandemic.

Larry Walther, secretary of the state Department of Finance and Administration, said the steering committee’s action would reduce the state’s unallocated federal coronavirus relief funds from about $278.7 million to about $113 million.

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