68 counties in ‘red’, state trying to waive collecting UI overpayments

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – More than half the state’s counties, including Fayette and many

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others in Central and Eastern Kentucky are in the coronavirus “red” zone and should be implementing recommendations to try to curb the spread of the virus.

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And Gov. Andy Beshear said he thinks leaders in those counties will “step up” and lead efforts.

Meanwhile, the state has asked the federal government to waive efforts to collect unemployment overpayments that were made because trhe federal government changed the rules on who should get payments and how much.

“People should be held harmless,” Beshear said of efforts that were initiated by the federal government but are being carried out by the state.

“The federal government shouldn’t pull the rug out from under them,” Beshear continued, noting he is willing to back legislative action to address the problem if the federal government rejects the state’s waiver request.

The governor also urged Congress to approve another coronavirus relief package before Dec. 31 or states will be left “high and dry” when current relief approved seven months ago runs out.

But the biggest issue remains the surge in coronavirus cases with 68 of the state’s 120 counties in “red” and another 47 in “orange.”

Beshear urged every Kentuckian in 68 red zone counties to “up their game” in the fight against COVID-19 and follow nine recommendations beginning Monday, Nov. 2, through Sunday, Nov. 8, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as cases flare in those areas.

“This is a type of outbreak where we can’t deny our way out of it, we can’t rationalize our way out of it, we can’t try to find excuses for not following the guidance,” said Beshear during his daily briefing Thursday.

Schools, businesses, community leaders and Kentuckians in red zone counties – published every Thursday afternoon on kycovid19.ky.gov – should follow the below recommendations the upcoming week.

Red Zone Reduction Recommendations:

  • Employers should allow employees to work from home when possible
  • Government offices that do not provide critical services need to operate virtually
  • Reduce in-person shopping; order online or pickup curbside as much as possible
  • Order take-out; avoid dining in restaurants or bars
  • Prioritize businesses that follow and enforce the mask mandate and other guidelines
  • Reschedule, postpone or cancel public events
  • Do not host or attend gatherings of any size
  • Avoid non-essential activities outside your home
  • Reduce overall activity and contacts, and follow existing guidance, including the 10 Steps to Defeat COVID-19

Thursday’s red zone counties are listed here, alphabetically and by incidence rate.

“It’s just unsafe right now,” he stated flatly.

The governor said that new White House guidance suggests “current transmissions are linked to home gatherings,” where Americans are not as likely to wear masks around people from outside of their household. With broad community spread and transmission in the state, the Governor said it is crucial that communities work together to follow these new recommendations on top of existing requirements.

He also said at least part of the surge is coming from border states.

Beshear reported 1,821 cases Thursday, the third-highest day on record. The numbers followed the second highest day Wednesday and fourth-highest day Tuesday.

The state now has confirmed 103,305 cases since March 6. Of the new cases, 227 are in kids under 18 and in the last seven days, 1,322 have been in that age group.

The state’s positivity rate stayed above 6 percent at 6.04 percent with 969 people in the hospital,m 234 in ICU and 120 on ventilators, all numbers approaching record levels.

Beshear also announced 19 more deaths, bringing the total lost to virus-related causes to 1,461. Deaths occurred in 16 counties, including a 68-year-old man from Adair County; a 75-year-old man from Calloway County; a 93-year-old man from Casey County; an 81-year-old man from Daviess County; a 65-year-old man from Fayette County; two women, ages 83 and 88, and two men, ages 88 and 90, from Jefferson County; a 73-year-old man from Jessamine County; a 72-year-old man from Lee County; a 61-year-old woman from McLean County; an 80-year-old woman from Meade County; a 71-year-old man from Muhlenberg County; a 68-year-old woman from Rowan County; a 58-year-old man from Russell County; a 68-year-old woman from Shelby County; an 87-year-old woman from Warren County; and an 89-year-old woman from Whitley County.

On unemployment insurance, Amy Cubbage, the Governor’s general counsel, talked about a new way of reporting unemployment insurance (UI) claims. In order to best serve those claimants who have been waiting the longest, the cabinet is now sorting claims by date of filing.

Cubbage said that Labor Cabinet Secretary Larry Roberts, at the Governor’s direction, has requested from the U.S. Department of Labor (US DOL) the ability to waive the obligation to obtain repayment of mistakenly-paid benefits that may have occurred after the federal government changed their eligibility guidance.

“We have not heard back from U.S. DOL but remain hopeful we will be allowed some flexibility on these overpayments,” Cubbage said. “If granted, we will be able to provide significant relief to many Kentuckians.”

As a part of a project to upgrade the UI computer system to be more user-friendly, there are some upcoming dates the system will be down for claimants.

Kentuckians will not be able to file a claim or claim benefits during these planned outages: Friday, Nov. 6, and Saturday, Nov. 7; Thursday, Nov. 26, through Saturday, Nov. 28; and briefly after business hours on Dec. 15.

Cubbage also warned Kentuckians to be on the lookout for email scammers using this fake account: PUA@unemployment.usdol.gov. She said scammers are trying to obtain personal information and shared tips to avoid the scam:

  • Never respond to an email unless it is from a ky.gov domain and is clearly marked as coming from a Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance (OUI) employee.
  • Know that you will never be asked to click on a link in an email from OUI.
  • Know that unless you initiate contact with U.S. DOL you should not receive any emails from U.S. DOL about your claim.

To view the full daily report, incidence rate map, testing locations, long term-care and other congregate facilities update, school reports, the White House Coronavirus Task Force reports for Kentucky and other key guidance visit, kycovid19.ky.gov.

Beshear said he remains hopeful Congress will approve a coronavirus relieve package after the Nov. 3 election.

Without it, he painted a dire picture, using terms like “High and dry” and dead in the water” to describe where states would be financially without money to buy PPEs, pay for extensive testing at nursing homes and prisons, send strike teams into nursing homes where outbreaks or occurring or respond in many other ways directly and indirectly to the coronavirus because federal assistance runs out Dec. 31.