FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Kentucky’s unemployment system, which has seen more than 930,000 claims filed during the coronavirus pandemic, came up for discussion during a legislative committee meeting Wednesday.
While Gov. Andy Beshear recently moved the program to the state Labor Cabinet, Deputy Education and Workforce Development Secretary Josh Benton, who had been overseeing it, was among those appearing remotely before the Interim Joint Appropriations and Revenue Committee.
He testified the number of people filing for benefits was around 550,000, due to a number of duplicate filings received by the system.
Gov. Beshear said last week there were still around 56,000 unresolved claims from March, April and May, and Benton testified there were 300,000-400,000 issues with those outstanding claims.
“No level of staffing would have been able to keep up with the number of claims,” he told lawmakers, adding, “Kentucky has not seen the level of fraud that has been experienced in other states.”
Amy Cubbin, General Counsel for the Labor Cabinet, who like Benton appeared remotely before the committee, said 200 people with the firm Ernst and Young are now on board helping reduce the backlog in cases, caused by a low number of adjudicators able to resolve issues faced by claimants.
“Ernst and Young currently has over 200 employees who are processing claims today,” she stated. “By next week, they will have an additional 100, so that will give us a total of 400 employees processing unemployment claims; 100 of our employees, and 300 from Ernst and Young.”
Although the Ernst and Young contract will cost $7.4 million for the month of July, Cubbin said, “This should save us more than $15 million by hiring this firm, which would have been associated with payroll and benefits. All of this is covered under federal CARES Act funding.”
She acknowledged there is still a great demand for claimants to talk to someone in person. “Through last week, we have served almost 4,000 people here in Frankfort, and we are still working those claims daily. In Ashland last week, we served 1,316 and in Owensboro another 886.”
This week they were in Somerset and Hopkinsville, and next week she says they will be at the Covington Convention Center and the Big Sandy Community College campus in Prestonsburg. While sign-ups are not yet available, people will soon be able to make appoints later this week by going to the Kentucky Career Center website at kcc.ky.gov.
No more appointments are available in Frankfort until September.