Kentucky unemployment backlog numbers have doubled since last year

Kentucky spent $14.5 million for Ernst & Young’s work, and since then, the number of unprocessed claims has more than doubled to 122,000.
Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 4:02 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 2, 2021 at 7:38 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - One year ago, Gov. Andy Beshear told Kentuckians the state was hiring an outside accounting firm, Ernst & Young, to process all 56,000 outstanding unemployment claims.

Kentucky spent $14.5 million for Ernst & Young’s work, and since then, the number of unprocessed claims has more than doubled to 122,000. Around 9,000 of those claims were filed in March, April, and May 2020, according to Kentucky’s Labor Cabinet.

Beshear has blamed the previous administration under former Gov. Matt Bevin for cutting 90 unemployment office positions and the Kentucky General Assembly for not investing in upgrades to improve the outdated unemployment computer system.

“You cannot starve your safety net during good times because you can’t rebuild it during traumatic, pandemic times,” Beshear said during a recent Team Kentucky media briefing.

However, the safety net was starved years prior when Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, turned down $90 million from the federal government to improve the state’s unemployment system following the Great Recession of 2008. Kentucky was one of 11 states to do so.

Kentuckians like Richard Whitley might be proof that the decision is still costing the state today. Whitley was laid off from his job in March 2020, and his unemployment benefits were suddenly cut off this April. He told WAVE 3 News he and his family are now being evicted from their home.

“I just got another rental place lined up for the 17th of this month,” Whitley said. “We have to be out of our current house the 17th of this month, so we’re moving the same day we’re being put out. It’s been the roughest trying to take care of my four children, my wife who is disabled, and her mother who all live with me. I’m the only breadwinner in the house right now, and they all get disability, but that barely covers the rest of the bills. I take care of the mortgage and the lot rental we live on.”

A Beshear spokesperson told WAVE 3 News the office has processed more than 2 million unemployment claims since March 2020 and is working through the fraud to process the remaining claims.

However, Whitley said he has heard that same response for months.

“A lot of us are having problems, and we’re just ready for some answers, some real answers, some truthful answers,” he said. “If you guys can’t get us paid admit that. At least I’d accept that instead of being lied to.”

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