LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Thousands of unemployment insurance claims are still being filed daily as the pandemic continues across Kentucky.
The Labor Cabinet is trying to catch up, but admitted during a legislative committee meeting Thursday that it’s not an easy task.
While delivering an update, cabinet leaders said they processed over a million claims and provided more than $5 billion in related benefits since the start of the pandemic.
Cabinet Secretary Larry Roberts said there is currently a backlog of 80,000 claims, adding some are from as far back as March.
Roberts said 7,000 claims from March remained two weeks ago.
He said 4,000 of them have been closed and the remaining are in the process of reaching a resolution since then.
Roberts said the department will focus on the remaining April claims next week.
According to the secretary, the department is still receiving 5,000 new claims a day.
Lawmakers said they’re still fielding daily desperate calls on unemployment insurance.
“The number of messages I get that are desperate is increasing,” Senator Danny Carroll, (R) Paducah, said. “It’s to the point that it’s not just taking their information, but it’s asking them, ‘Do you have food for your family?’”
Carroll questioned why claims from the start of the pandemic were still unresolved.
“We’ve got to get a hold of this,” he said. “It is concerning to me that, here we are almost in November, and we have not finished the March claims. Why in the world would we not have, months ago, made sure those initial claims were addressed?”
Roberts responded by stating the cabinet is doing the best it can with limited resources, but wont be satisfied until all claims are handled. Department officials said they are asking the feds for more funding to beef up staffing.
Michael Ardt, a Nelson County resident, said he’s been waiting since August for a benefit extension.
“It’s very stressful waiting two months, you know, everything’s behind,” Ardt said. “You’re telling them everything’s going to be okay. I’m going to take care of these bills and the money is not there when you expected it to be there.”
Ardt said a cabinet worker contacted him Thursday to tell him his extension would soon be processed.
A federal rule change made it so Kentuckians who left their jobs in fear of contracting the virus were overpaid benefits according to Roberts.
He adds the federal government wants that money back, but he has written a letter to the Department of Treasury asking for that repayment to be waived.
During the committee meeting, the state fund used to help pay for unemployment benefits was shown to be in an anticipated $600 million deficit at the end of 2020.
Cabinet leaders said that likely will mean business owners will see a modest tax increase in the years to come.