New bill aims to improve public access to KY Office of Unemployment Insurance

New bill aims to improve public access to KY Office of Unemployment Insurance

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - House Bill 367 would require unemployment offices to open in certain areas of Kentucky when the unemployment rate rises above five percent.

The bill comes after nearly a year of issues with the Office of Unemployment Insurance, especially when it comes to unemployed Kentuckians trying to reach someone to get help with their claim.

Representative Scott Sharp (R) sponsored the bill after experiencing the problems with the unemployment office firsthand while trying to help his constituents with their claims.

“I couldn’t even get a return call from unemployment,” Scott said. “I ended up having to get in my car, drive over to the cabinet, and though I was seen, only a few of my constituents have had any movement within their claims.”

Some state leaders blame the slew of OUI problems on previous administrations when former Gov. Steve Beshear and former Gov. Matt Bevin closed down several unemployment offices and cut funding because the unemployment rate was low at the time.

Scott said those actions have ultimately led to one of the biggest problems with the unemployment office today: lack of access.

“Communication with the unemployment insurance office is all but nonexistent,” he said.

Scott’s bill would try to fix that, however, some worry about the cost attached to reopening the offices. According to the Labor Cabinet, it would cost close to $14 million.

“We can’t create these out of thin air with no monetary attachment so I certainly hope it would be put in the budget,” Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D) said.

Gov. Andy Beshear has set aside $13 million in CARES Act money which could go toward reopening the offices. The General Assembly would have to make room for the rest of the money in its budget.

House Bill 367 passed unanimously in the House on Tuesday. It will move to the Senate, and if it passes, Gov. Beshear would have to decide whether to sign it into law.

Copyright 2021 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.