UI claims, manufacturing, tourism and other state updates

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Some confusion ad misconceptions about the current $400 in supplemental unemployment insurance payments is because of federal restrictions on who is eligible for the money ad not any decisions by the state, the program’s chief counsel  said Tuesday.

The unemployment insurance was one of several updates ad tributes during Gov. Andy Beshear’s daily briefing.

Amy Cubbage, general counsel in the Office of the Governor, provided an update on the commonwealth’s efforts to help those Kentuckians experiencing job loss during this unprecedented time.

“The Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance has paid in excess of $4.1 billion in benefits to Kentuckians, benefits for the most part that get spent at our businesses and have an economic impact multiple times more than that $4.1 billion,” she said.

Nonetheless, Cubbage noted some claims have been denied or are still being processed. She noted the rules governing unemployment insurance payouts come largely from the federal Department of Labor.

“The eligible claims payment rate is staying at the same level as pre-pandemic, about 80%” she said.

Cubbage also provided an update on the federal Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides an additional $400 per week for those who qualify.

She said Kentucky’s Office of Unemployment Insurance has paid out about $245 million in LWA benefits, covering the weeks of Aug. 1 through Sept. 5.

Cubbage said some have been confused by the federal program’s eligibility rules and urged anyone with questions to view new information covering frequently asked questions on the Kentucky Career Center’s webpage.

She said the state actually is denying fewer claims now — about 25 percent — than before the coronavirus outbreak, when it was about 34 percent.

She said some benefits are beginning to run out because they only last initially for 26 weeks. A video on the web sites listed above explain how to reapply, she said.

She also noted some people who qualified for the additional $400 a week had failed to recertify themselves. Emails or messages were sent to those 21,600 people and about 15,000 have responded, she explained. But getting those responses processed and money sent will take “a couple of weeks.”

She said overall, the state has handled 1.2 million claims. Of those, about 77,000 initial claims remain unresolved and most of those are disputed.”We are working through them…but they just take time.”

She acknowledged that about 7,000 people were sent overpayments in the first wave of the additional $4,000 payments and those people are being notified but those overpayments didn’t delay any future payments to pe0ople who were eligible.

As for expanding or reopening offices across the state or doing more in-person visits to communities, that likely won’t happen for awhile because the state had determined that even with the help of Ernst and Young staff, the state staff is more efficient and gets more done in the Frankfort office.

In other items:

— Beshear issued a proclamation recognizing October as Manufacturing Month in Kentucky.

“While it’s one thing to issue this proclamation, it’s another to truly recognize how profound an impact manufacturing has on Kentucky’s economy, its communities and its families,” the governor said. “Manufacturers in Kentucky employ about 260,000 people, full-time.”

He noted Kentucky’s manufacturing base far outstrips the national average, with 13% of the commonwealth’s workforce employed in manufacturing versus 8.5% nationally. Kentucky is home to approximately 4,500 manufacturing facilities, from Fortune 500 companies to mom-and-pop operations.

“We produce dryers, aerospace composites, dump truck bodies, laundry baskets, concrete blocks, duct tape, pet food, construction cranes, cars, trucks and SUVs, cheese, craft beer, railroad ties, running shorts so much more,” Beshear said.

He noted many of these same companies have aided the commonwealth’s coronavirus response by retooling or ramping up to produce crucially needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for Kentucky’s first responders.

“These companies make barriers, masks, gowns, disinfectant, face shields, intubation boxes, ventilator components and, of course, hand sanitizer,” Beshear noted. “PPE producers and their employees are true heroes in this epic fight against the coronavirus.”

The Governor said his administration continues to work to bring in new manufacturing projects to help the commonwealth bounce back stronger and better.

— Beshear announced the awarding of $3 million in federal grant money that will enhance safety and preparedness of 25 communities across the commonwealth, including Lexington, Georgetown, Pike County, Lyon County, Painstville and several others..

“If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the value of being prepared before a crisis strikes,” the Governor said. “These much-needed grants will help Kentucky communities plan for, respond to and recover from events we pray never happen.”

The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s State Homeland Security Grant Program, which helps local governments prepare for and counter acts of terrorism.

— Beshear promoted the Kentucky Department of Tourism’s newly launched campaign: “Stay Close. Go Far.”

“As we continue to remain diligent in our fight against COVID-19, we also recognize the importance of staying connected with our families and communities,” the Governor said. “The ‘Stay Close. Go Far.’ campaign allows us to encourage safe and responsible in-state travel for Kentuckians and support our continuous efforts to place Kentucky on a path to economic recovery.”

The Governor also asked Kentuckians to follow and use the hashtag #TravelKYroadtrip on social media to get and share trip ideas.

For more information and to view the full news release, click here.

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