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Bill seeks to help people asked to return unemployment money

The measure applies to some people who left their jobs early in the pandemic due to concerns about exposure to COVID-19.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill allowing the state to waive the overpayment of some pandemic-related unemployment claims won initial approval Tuesday from a Kentucky Senate committee.

The measure applies to some people who left their jobs early in the pandemic due to concerns about exposure to COVID-19. At the time, the state signaled they’d be eligible for unemployment assistance, but recipients later were informed the money had to be given back.

The legislation would allow the Labor Cabinet to waive overpayments when the unemployment office was at fault. Recipients would be expected to request the waiver.

“There will be very clear communication about how a claimant can respond and appeal and start that review process saying, ‘I feel like I did this in good faith and I feel like my overpayment should be forgiven,’” said Republican Sen. David Givens, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel said lawmakers and Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration were striving to “do the right thing” for thousands of people affected. But he faulted the Democratic governor’s administration for causing the problem.

“The pandemic has made us realize the weakness of having one person pull every lever in society and in an economy,” McDaniel said.

Kentucky, like other states, was hit by skyrocketing numbers of claims for jobless aid during the pandemic. Beshear’s administration has pointed to the U.S. Labor Department for the mix-up.

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The legislation is Senate Bill 7.

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