State to send UI teams back into the field

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state plans to start sending teams of unemployment adjudicators into field offices in two weeks as a away to finish catching up on the remaining claims that have not been completed, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.

The news comes as hundreds of people have stood i line outside government offices in Frankfort this week for the first rounds of in-person meetings with claims workers.

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Four days of sessions have cleared up some 2,000 cases, some of which were finished with just a few minutes of meetings after hours of waiting in line.

“We want to get this done, to get this fixed, we know it is so frustrating for the people who have been waiting…We ran on helping people and we’re having a hard time,” Beshear said during his daily briefing.

He said getting tier 3 workers back into some of the field offices is a step not only to getting claims resolved but also in rebuilding the unemployment network and system, a system he described as being built in almost every state to “tell people no.”

It’s a system that has been pushed to the back for years, starting with using a computer system that hasn’t been updated since 2000. Over the years, face-to-face interaction has been phased back until it amounted to 12 people in a call center in January.

The department’s budget for staff and equipment has been reduced from $45 million to $25 million over the years and in 2017, 21 of the state’s 50 field offices were closed and staff moved to other departments, Beshear said.

“We’re not just having to restart, we’re having to rebuild…the system wasn’t designed to help people, it was designed to tell people no. It should be a safety net, it’s not something people are out there abusing, they need help. I hope we won’t starve these systems again,” he continued, urging state lawmakers to work together to both change and strengthen the system in the weeks to come.

“Other states are having the same issues; worse in many case.

Michigan has 340,000 claims still outstanding, Tennessee 309,000, Maryland 71,000. While Kentucky has processed more than 90 percent of claims, Pennsylvania is at only 85 percent and Virginia is at 75 percent.