Kentucky Governor Takes Action To Improve Unemployment Insurance System

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Hundreds of people wait for unemployment benefit help outside the Kentucky State Capitol in June. Like many states, Kentucky taxes unemployment benefits as income, which has helped balance its budget.

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Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday announced measures to improve Kentucky’s beleaguered unemployment insurance system, including combining the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet with the Labor Cabinet and calling for more permanent staff.

The system that provides benefits to people without work has been strained during the coronavirus pandemic, producing a backlog of cases.

Beshear said he doesn’t know how many valid claims are saved because his administration is working to suppress fraudulent claims.

Earlier this month, Beshear announced a new system that began on November 4 to tackle unemployment fraud. The Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance has partnered with ID.me, a third-party provider that helps confirm people’s identities.

Of the unemployment insurance initiatives Beshear spoke about on Thursday, the most recent was to combine the two firms.

He said the UI office would be owned by the new new cabinet.

In May 2020, Beshear transferred the Office of Unemployment Insurance from the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to the Labor Cabinet after numerous complaints about obtaining unemployment insurance benefits. people unemployed due to COVID-19.

Beshear said Thursday that the combination of the two cabinets would reduce duplication efforts and allow the state to withdraw more workers to deal with a crisis like unemployment insurance.

Jamie Link, who served as Labor Secretary, will be the secretary of the new combined cabinet, the governor said.

Mary Pat Regan, who Beshear appointed Acting Secretary of Education and Workforce Development in October when Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman resigned to take on more duties, particularly in the area of ​​economic development , will be deputy secretary of the new cabinet.

Beshear said the combination will not result in any job cuts. He did not immediately know how many employees there would be in the new firm.

He also said the consolidation will begin immediately, but that he will have to ask state lawmakers at the 2022 General Assembly starting in January to approve the reorganization. He said he believed lawmakers would be in favor of the move because it means one less cabinet.

Beshear also said he would ask state lawmakers to fund more permanent staff for the new cabinet. He made a similar request last year, but was told to use federal funds.

He said on Thursday that new staff should be permanent and not subject to one-time federal funding.

The Democratic governor also said the state is evaluating responses it has received from providers to improve the state’s unemployment insurance system.

He said the system is run down and sometimes retired employees have had to be called in to work with it. Link said earlier this year that the upgrade could cost $ 40 million.

This breaking news will be updated.

Jack Brammer is the Frankfurt bureau chief for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He has been covering Kentucky politics and government since May 1978. He holds a master’s degree in communication from the University of Kentucky and is originally from Maysville, Ky.
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