- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2020

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A state program that was created to process unemployment applications in Arkansas for self-employed individuals or gig economy workers appears to have been illegally accessed and has been shut down, officials announced Saturday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he learned Friday evening that an applicant for the program is believed to have somehow accessed the system, prompting an investigation of a possible data breach.

The probe will determine if any personal data from applicants was obtained. If any individuals had their data compromised, they will be notified and steps will be taken to address the situation, including possible credit monitoring, Hutchinson said.

An outside IT expert was brought in to review the system.

“We want to make sure that the system is in good shape before it goes back online,” the governor said.



News of the program breach was first reported on Friday by the Arkansas Times.

About 30,000 people have applied to the program, which has had other problems. Earlier this month, a computer glitch forced some who had already applied to resubmit supporting documents.

At least 4,578 people in Arkansas have tested positive for the coronavirus, Dr. Nate Smith, Arkansas’ health secretary, said Saturday.

The true number is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

Ninety-eight people in the state have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. That was unchanged from Friday.

Saturday’s total number of cases increased by 115 from Friday. That followed increases earlier in the week of more than 100 cases each on Tuesday and Thursday.

The recent triple-digit increases weren’t expected to prompt the state to pull back its plans to reopen as part of the first phase of lifting restrictions, Hutchinson said Friday.

Arkansas’ first phase placed limits on seating capacity in restaurants and required face coverings for staff and customers. The second phase would increase seating availability and open bars. Phase three would be normal operations.

The state was expected to make an announcement Monday regarding the reopening of bars.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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