Thousands of unemployed Kentuckians could see gap in unemployment benefits

Thousands of unemployed Kentuckians could see gap in unemployment benefits

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Thousands of Kentuckians whose unemployment benefits expired the day after Christmas may wait weeks before seeing their next payment as the state switches over to the new benefits extension recently passed by the federal government.

Despite the passing of the new coronavirus relief bill, which extended unemployment benefits for those laid off because of the pandemic until March, Kentucky officials must wait to receive guidelines from the federal government before it can begin issuing payments again, according to the state’s unemployment website.

The lag in payments could impact around 88,000 Kentuckians like single father Mark Whitaker, who had to stop working when his two boys’ schools shut down.

“My unemployment, like everyone else’s, went out the 26th,” Whitaker said. “I’m hoping I don’t have to file another claim because it was a nightmare.”

The last time WAVE 3 News checked, 86,000 other people in Kentucky are still waiting for their claims to be processed, some since March.

Gov. Andy Beshear blamed the backlog on an old IT system, fewer people working in the unemployment office due to budget cuts and inconsistent guidelines from the federal government on how to issue benefits.

“At the start (of the pandemic) it was, ‘Get it out really fast,’ and then in the middle it was like, ‘Oh wait, you should be spending more time ensuring there’s zero fraud in the unprecedented amount of benefits you’re providing,’” Beshear said. “We’ve had this push and pull that’s made it really difficult.”

In addition, Beshear told reporters during a recent news conference that the state has to reprogram its computer system before it can begin distributing the additional $300 a week added on top of unemployment benefits, another piece included in the federal coronavirus relief bill.

WAVE 3 News asked officials at the unemployment office how long people might have to wait to receive their next payment as a part of the new benefits extension, or if they should file a new claim if theirs’ expired with the last CARES Act extension.

Officials later issued this statement:

“No one in state government will be satisfied until all Kentuckians receive the unemployment benefits for which they qualify, and the Kentucky Labor Cabinet and OUI will continue to work each and every day until that is a reality for all qualified Kentuckians.

We are awaiting further guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor to know all the parameters of the unemployment programs recently passed by Congress. We can’t begin to make changes to the UI system until we know all of the details and receive the guidance.”

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