FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky won swift federal approval for another infusion of extra unemployment payments for many people who lost work during the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday.
The go-ahead came one day after Beshear announced his administration requested the supplemental $400 in weekly jobless benefits for an additional three weeks. It means qualified Kentuckians will receive higher benefits for the weeks of Aug. 22, Aug. 29 and Sept. 5, he said.
“It’s a win for those that have been struggling to get those extra dollars in,” the governor told reporters. “It’s also a win for our state because it continues consumer confidence. We see the money cycle through our economy, especially retailers and others that have been struggling.”
Beshear also reported 824 more COVID-19 cases statewide and seven more virus-related deaths.
With many schools preparing to resume in-person classes next week, the Democratic governor urged Kentuckians to redouble their efforts to contain the virus by wearing masks in public, adhering to social distancing guidelines and limiting contacts.
“This is a major challenge of our lifetimes,” he said. “And we’re going to be judged in part by how many Kentuckians and how many Americans we let die. And I say that because while we can’t save everybody — COVID’s that difficult — we can save a lot of people.”
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic topped 200,000 Tuesday — a tragic milestone that Beshear said was “difficult to comprehend.” Kentucky’s death toll from COVID-19 has reached at least 1,119.
“The fact that we’ve already lost 200,000 people ought to tell you how powerful this virus is and make us commit to doing the right things to defeat it,” Beshear said.
Kentucky’s positivity rate — a rolling figure reflecting the average number of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 — rose to 4.52%, ending a recent trend in which it has been below 4%.
The 824 new cases raised the statewide total to more than 62,730 since the pandemic began. Last week, Kentucky had its second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in a single week.
In announcing the extra unemployment benefits, Beshear said a timetable for the supplemental payments will be forthcoming for the qualified recipients.
The first round of supplemental payments for Kentucky was approved for the three weeks prior to Aug. 22. More than 100,000 Kentuckians qualified for those extra payments, the governor’s office said Monday. Recipients still receive their regular state unemployment benefits.
Under the program authorized by President Donald Trump, no extra state money is required for the first $300 in extra weekly assistance for each recipient. To get the full $400 available for the unemployed, Kentucky dips into its federal coronavirus relief aid to make up the difference.
Kentucky remains in “a place that we can do it” financially, Beshear said Monday. He has said he opted for the full amount because that extra $100 is “critically important” for recipients.
The unemployed had received $600 a week in federal pandemic aid until the assistance expired Aug. 1. Congress has been unable to agree on an extension amid an impasse on a new round of coronavirus relief.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.