Many still waiting for unemployment benefits; eastern Kentucky counties above state average

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 7:54 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WSAZ) - Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and countless Kentuckians are still waiting for their unemployment benefits. Many say they can’t even get in touch with a real person to update them on their case.

“No one has ever, ever called me,” one woman told us. “I’ve never gotten to speak to a human.”

The woman asked to remain anonymous, but says she is beyond frustrated with how her case has been handled.

“It’s such a helpless feeling knowing that you’ve worked all your life and you finally have to use the unemployment system, and they fail you completely."

She’s not alone in falling victim to the backlog.

Dozens of people in the same situation have reached out to WSAZ, asking for help in their case. On Sept. 1, we sent a list of names to Gov. Andy Beshear’s office, including the woman we spoke to Wednesday. She says she has yet to hear from anyone.

Recently, data released by the Kentucky Center for Statistics shows the scope of unemployment rates across the commonwealth.

In July, every Kentucky county in WSAZ’s viewing area was above the state’s average unemployment rate of 6.2 percent. Martin County was above the national average of 10.5 percent. You can see a map of each county’s rate by clicking here. To compare the rates from 2019, click here.

“It’s almost like eastern Kentucky has been left out,” the woman told WSAZ. “It’s like they almost forgot us. There’s not a lot of jobs here anyway. Like I said, for someone to have to never had to draw this, and to depend on it, and then completely fail you, it’s terrible.”

On Wednesday, WSAZ submitted a question for Beshear’s daily briefing about what is being done to address the outstanding claims. Though our question wasn’t directly answered, he did tell another reporter that they are making “significant gains” in the backlog.

“I think we did over 1,000 of these determination letters, I think just yesterday, so the pace is significantly picking up,” Beshear said.

The governor says his hope is that the state “very soon” gets back to regional in-person services.

That is a mission State Rep. Terri Branham Clark (D-Boyd) has been pushing for. She tells WSAZ she met with the Beshear administration Wednesday afternoon and was told Beshear supports opening local offices that were closed in 2017.

A timeline of when that would happen has not been provided.

Copyright 2020 WSAZ. All rights reserved.

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