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Ky. unemployment problems persist despite efforts to improve system

WAVE Louisville logo WAVE Louisville 11/14/2020 Tori Gessner
a close up of a newspaper: The Kentucky Labor Cabinet said it has received more than 1.2 million unemployment claims since March. © Provided by WAVE Louisville The Kentucky Labor Cabinet said it has received more than 1.2 million unemployment claims since March.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky has paid out more than $5 billion in unemployment money since the pandemic began, but 78,000 people still have not received a dime.

Sara Bornemann is one of those tens of thousands of people whose claims are sitting unprocessed. She filed for unemployment in mid-April.

“For a lot of people, chasing their unemployment benefits has turned into a full-time job because they can’t get answers,” she said.

Bornemann said nothing has changed since last speaking to WAVE 3 News in September. Her unemployment claim went under investigation shortly after she filed. Bornemann has emailed and called the unemployment office; she managed to get through to someone once.

Others told WAVE 3 News they have experienced similar problems.

“Last week I sat on hold for two and half hours," one person said. "The lady answers the phone and hangs up on me. How would you feel? You waited on hold for two and a half hours and she says, ‘No, we can’t help you. Goodbye.’”

Some were hopeful the problems would improve when the Kentucky Labor Cabinet announced late last month it would change the way it processed claims in order to work its way through the immense backlog. The office switched from processing claims based on the date a person last worked, to processing cases based on the date they were filed.

“That will give people a better, clearer idea of how long people have truly been waiting, but it also helps us. It helps us be able to prioritize,” Governor Andy Beshear said. “This will hopefully let us go by the oldest claim first and make sure we get through them.”

Even though Bornemann’s claim is one of the oldest in the system, labor department employees have yet to process it despite the new efforts.

“As a mid-April filer, I haven’t received any follow-up whatsoever,” Bornemann said. “My case isn’t by any means distinct from others'. There are tons of people still waiting, so as far as hearing that ‘first claim first,’ which is what [the state] should’ve done in the beginning, I haven’t seen it yet.”

Bornemann told WAVE 3 News she hopes the unemployment issues get resolved quickly, because she has seen too many people lose everything.

“We’re coming up on the holidays. It’s hard not to be around people, it’s hard not to worry about this, and you hear how bad it’s going to be for people to not be able to get together, but it’s going to be worse if they don’t have homes.”

To date, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet said it has received more than 1.2 million unemployment claims since March. It is unclear when officials expect to finish processing the remaining 78,000 claims.

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

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