State pays out $107 million so far in jobless benefits

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – More than 275,000 Kentucky residents have filed for unemployment benefits in the past three weeks.

According to the state, 168,789 people filed in March and 127,473 have filed between April 1 and April 8, Gov. Andy Beshear’s staff said during Thursday’s update.

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That averages 13,995 people a day.

By comparison, in all of March 2019, 9,079 people filed and another 9,948 in April 2019.

Before March 16, the department handled about 1,342 calls a day. After March 16, that number was 83,426 a day.

Since March 16, the state has paid 208,824 people benefits totaling $107,771,083. But about 20,000 people still haven’t been paid.

“We make no excuses,” Beshear said of those people, continuing to accept responsibility for the state’s computer system that is one of the oldest in the country.

But the state continues to be ahead of a number of other states nationwide in getting people on the books and paid.

The state will start paying the additional $600 a week from the increased federal unemployment benefits this evening and play catch up with those who are due it “for a couple of days,” Beshear said.

The surge comes as the coronavirus pandemic causes widespread economic damage.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that 117,135 Kentuckians filed unemployment claims last week. It was an increase of nearly 4,000 people from the prior week.

Nationwide, 16.8 million Americans filed for unemployment aid in the past three weeks.

Like elsewhere, Kentucky’s unemployment benefit enrollment system has been overwhelmed by surging numbers of applicants.

Kentucky dramatically increased the number of employees handling unemployment insurance claims, adding 1,200 people so far.