FRANKFORT, Ky. — Quickly after Kentucky recorded its first positive case of COVID-19 in March of 2020, the statewide shutdown began.
Kids weren’t allowed in school and only what were deemed essential businesses could stay open.
That led to unprecedented unemployment across the country, and Kentucky was no exception.
“As it comes to initially filed claims, we are in a better place today than we were pre-pandemic,” Gov. Andy Beshear, D-Kentucky, said in an exclusive one-on-one interview with FOCUS.
The governor stayed consistent with his statements made during the height of the pandemic when too many Kentuckians were waiting too long for their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.
“We (were) saddled with a broken system where the last administration had cut 90 people, failed to upgrade the system,” Gov. Beshear complained.
However, three years later, the governor gave FOCUS this long-awaited update.
“Our backlog is now gone, all of those claims that were filed in the height of the pandemic have, in fact, been processed,” he said. “And that is good news.”
The latest data the Labor Cabinet provided to FOCUS was on Feb. 20.
The Cabinet stated that more than 2.8 million UI claims had been processed during the pandemic with only 748 outstanding claims left.
“I’m glad that that’s now down to zero,” Gov. Beshear said.
Still, there are thousands of denied claims being appealed.
“I think it’s a little over 8,000,” the governor acknowledged.
The Labor Cabinet points out that the average amount of time for a decision to be made on an appeal should be less than 30 days.
The Cabinet also provided alarming data stemming from the global cyberattacks and full-blown fraud, which the federal government estimates may have stolen at least $60 billion in unemployment payments.
Of the 1.38 million claims processed from March 2020 through Feb. 14, 2023, 651,261 of them got paid while the other 735,975 were deemed invalid or fraudulent.
Despite the massive challenges, Beshear still acknowledges that the process took too long.
“This administration, we own where we haven’t performed at the level we should,” he said. “I want to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure it never happens again.”
Part of the solution, Gov. Beshear believes, is boosting staffing to what it once was.
He was hoping state lawmakers would have appropriated the funds to do that.
“Sadly, the General Assembly hasn’t learned the lesson," he said.
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