Changes to KY’s unemployment system on the table

The current system faced many problems during the pandemic

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Changes are likely coming to Kentucky’s beleaguered unemployment system, a system that couldn’t handle record claims during the pandemic, leading to delayed payments, no payments, fraud, long lines and immeasurable frustration for people trying to get unemployment.

State lawmakers on a reform task form listed several recommendations during a hearing Thursday.

“What we’re focusing on are some sustainable changes we can make going forward in hopes that we never see this kind of economic hit like the pandemic again,” Kate Shanks, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s senior VP of public affairs, said.

Shanks said if certain measures were already in place, the hit wouldn’t have been as hard.

One proposal is to require people to look for as many as five jobs a week while on unemployment. Shanks said this could include a mix of work force training and submitting actual job applications.

“The one job contact per week is a fairly weak goal for a modern day job search,” Shanks said of the current standard.

Another proposal is to reconsider the definition of ‘suitable work’ for people on unemployment.

“When you consider something like training and experience and skills, so many employers today are willing to do on-the-job training,” Shank said.

She also suggested doing a better job of matching unemployment claimants directly to jobs that match their skills, and improving the system so that it can quickly address recipients who decline job offers or don’t show up for job fairs.

“We are hearing from employers is that you might have a job fair and 300 people sign up and maybe 50 show up,” Shanks said.

She said the bottom line is to improve the unemployment system at every level and, in turn, get more Kentuckians back to work.

Currently, Shanks said the state has the longest average benefit duration in the country, and the third worst workforce participation rate.

“It’s not just one bill that we think we can pass to deal, or that you can pass to deal with our workforce challenges,” Shanks said. “We’re going to be coming at this from multiple angles.”

As for how to pay for these changes, she said the business community is willing to help.

All of this will be taken up in the next General Assembly session in January.

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