Kentuckians grappling with months of lost income due to coronavirus closures are looking to members of the General Assembly for help navigating the commonwealth’s unemployment bureaucracy.
More than 900,000 requests for unemployment benefits have been filed since COVID-19 began to ravage Kentucky’s economy in March. According to state officials, 6,700 March claims are unresolved in addition to more than 42,000 from April and May.
As some Kentuckians make in-person trips to Frankfort to seek unemployment assistance, others are turning to their hometown connection to the commonwealth’s capital city: members of the state legislature.
State Representative Chris Freeland represents Marshall and Lyon counties and a portion of McCracken County in the state House of Representatives. He said he has received hundreds of requests for help with backlogged unemployment claims, averaging out to about ten per day.
Freeland said legislators generally send requests on to constituent services representatives that operate as caseworkers for Kentuckians dealing with state government agencies. He said the heartbreaking stories brought to him by constituents make the situation even more difficult.
“I’ve heard some really sad stories from people who are worried about being able to lose their electricity,” Freeland said. “Fortunately, they can’t be kicked out of their homes, or if they’re paying rent, the law does protect them in that regard.”
Freeland said his wife is among claimants waiting to hear back from an unemployment claim. He said she and thousands of others are stuck “under investigation,” meaning the state is seeking more information before accepting the application.
Governor Andy Beshear announced earlier this week a $7.4 million contract with a private firm to address the backlog. Beshear said he hopes the more than 50,000 unresolved cases will be cleared by the end of the month. The administration has taken other action, including opening temporary unemployment field offices and moving the program from the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to the Labor Cabinet.
Find more information concerning Kentucky’s unemployment insurance program, including the application for benefits, here.