Despite unemployment debate in Frankfort, unemployed still frustrated

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A system failure is what some Kentuckians and state leaders are calling the state’s unemployment insurance system.

Tuesday, the state’s Auditor released hundreds of pages citing state problems, including possible violations of federal law. But others note the state has paid more than five billion dollars in benefits to more than 600 thousand people.

“The unemployment situation of 2020 represents, well, a failure on the part of government to serve those who needed it the most,” Auditor Mike Harmon said.

People who are still waiting for their money though, say they don’t care how they get it, they just want something to happen now.

Harmon says half of the 25 findings in the audit are related to unemployment.

“People are out here struggling because of this pandemic and they need their money,” John Francis said.

Francis lives in Lexington and says he’s struggled nearly the entire last year with the unemployment office, feeling like he can’t get answers.

In Harmon’s report, it showed the office of unemployment had never read nearly 400,000 emails of people asking for help.

“What’s the problem with mine, I don’t understand,” Francis said about his struggle to reach someone in the Office of Unemployment.

The audit also claims the unemployment office violated federal law in attempts to help people get their benefits faster by implementing an auto-pay system. But under the CARES Act people were supposed to certify each week their unemployment status, with auto-pay that wasn’t happening, even if it did mean some people got paid.

“This crisis is without a doubt the number one issue facing our constituents,” Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, said.

House Democrats announced Tuesday morning the filing of House Bill 406. They call it a comprehensive modernization of the unemployment system.

“Now is the time to implement the lessons we’ve learned and be sure this uncertainty never happens to Kentuckians again,” Cantrell said.

Republicans have accused Democratic Governor Andy Beshear of making a bad situation worse. The GOP releasing a statement saying in part, “Gov. Andy Beshear’s unemployment insurance scandal is a national disgrace.”

That comes even though Beshear has made moves that many other Governors, Republican and Democrat, made during the pandemic.

And part of the time covered by the audit was under republican Governor Matt Bevi,
regardless, people like Francis say political party doesn’t matter.

“They’re not doing a good job,” Francis said.


The full statement from Ky GOP is as follows:

“Today’s report shines further light on the massive scandal of Gov. Andy Beshear’s failed unemployment insurance office. Gov. Beshear ordered Kentuckians out of work and into the unemployment line – and now nearly a year into the crisis, his administration is still extending the pain for families in need, with more than 100,000 claims still outstanding.

Political games, excuse after excuse, and not accepting responsibility for his administration’s failed policies – and all the while Beshear’s team ignored 400,000 emails asking for help. Simply put, Gov. Andy Beshear’s unemployment insurance scandal is a national disgrace. We applaud Auditor Mike Harmon for keeping a watchful eye on taxpayer dollars and standing up for working families.” – Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Mike Lonergan

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