Lawmakers wrestle with Ky. unemployment response, more in-person services announced

Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) - Kentucky lawmakers on Friday heard about numerous issues that have plagued people seeking unemployment as a result of COVID-19.

The Interim Committee on Economic Development held a meeting to discuss the situation even as in-person help expands in the next few weeks to help more Kentuckians.

Kentucky lawmakers were told that the state’s unemployment system and staff were unprepared when thousands lost their jobs during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“As we came out of the recession, and the unemployment rate went down, the operational budget for UI decreased dramatically,” said Josh Benton, Deputy Workforce Secretary.

Benton told interim committee members that former Governor Bevin’s administration made some decisions that are still impacting the current administration’s response.

“The decision was made to remove in-person services from the career centers,” says Benton.

Four months after the first COVID-19 related unemployment claim was made, lawmakers found out that roughly 6,700 claims are still unresolved from March alone, while more than 40,000 remain unsolved from April and May.

“Why are we not using all of our resources to help these people that are struggling and losing assets?” asked Rep. Adam Bowling. “Falling behind on electric bill, water bill.”

Cabinet officials say in-person services are being expanded to include more locations than just Frankfort.

“Duplicating, we are now going to be next week, moving the staff out into the state: Ashland Monday and Tuesday of next week, Owensboro also Monday and Tuesday,” says Larry Roberts with the Kentucky Labor Cabinet.

In-person services will be available in Somerset and Hopkinsville starting on July 7th and 8th respectively.

Workforce officials say they must to secure an $865,000,000 federal loan to shore up the Unemployment Trust Fund, which they say will have to be tapped into next week.

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