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State to choose upgrade plan for Kentucky unemployment system by October

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 4:34 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2021 at 6:32 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance officials hope changes and upgrades will soon come to the state’s unemployment system, which has been plagued with problems.

The state began looking at unemployment system upgrade options in August, according to Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary Jamie Link, and is expected to decide which system it will upgrade to by October.

“These two offices continue to work hard every single day to process the enormous volume of outstanding unemployment claims and to assist Kentuckians with their unemployment claims,” Link said. “We wish we could get to them as fast as we can and we’re working on that, and we’re working to make improvements on that.”

The upgrade will cost around $40 million, he said.

Claimants like Rachel Gates said they aren’t confident it will make a difference.

“They could decide what system they want to upgrade to in October, but how long is it going to take them to upgrade it, and if this upgrade is anything like the last upgrade, it’s a downgrade, no matter what they do,” Gates said.

Gates was laid off from her job in June. She said her unemployment claim has been sitting under “fact finding” status ever since.

“Money is extremely tight,” Gates said. “We’re juggling bills, we’ve had to borrow money; we’ve had to live off credit cards. … I’m doing my best to find a job. I don’t want to be a drain on the resources of the state of Kentucky, but I paid money into that system just for this reason. My paycheck had state taxes deducted for this reason, and I’m sitting here literally looking at Ramen noodles for dinner every night because that’s all I can afford. Why is that? I would like to know why.”

Emily Campbell said her unemployment claim is also under “fact finding.” She said she was laid off from her job as a waitress due to COVID-19 and was then involved in a motorcycle accident. Campbell said her claim was fine up until February, when the checks stopped coming.

“There’s people here in Kentucky that are struggling, that are losing literally everything they own, everything they have, everything they stand for because they haven’t been able to get paid,” Campbell said.

Campbell hopes the state’s upgrade helps filter out fraudulent claims faster so legitimate claimants no longer have to wait months to be processed through the system.

Kentucky officials have previously said it could take two to three years for the system upgrades to go into effect. The Office of Unemployment Insurance had not responded to WAVE 3 News’ requests for additional information at the time this article was published.

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