Fmr. Ky. unemployment director says system was overwhelmed; he was scapegoated

WKYT News at 6:00 PM
Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 11:50 AM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The former director of Kentucky’s unemployment insurance program testified before state lawmakers Thursday morning.

Muncie McNamara was let go in May after being named director in January. He told an interim committee of lawmakers of numerous problems during a flood of claims when thousands lost their jobs in March.

McNamara said he was fired without cause and told lawmakers of numerous problems he witnessed at that helm.

McNamara says it was messy, emotional and chaotic in mid-March when the state shut down businesses and tens of thousands of people lost jobs resulting in the unemployment system quickly being overwhelmed.

He said had there been more time to plan, a lot of the problems would not have happened and a lot of the mess could have been avoided.

“It was impossible to both make the necessary changes and to proceed and process the new claims,” McNamara said. “At the same time, the pressure from the Governor’s office was growing.”

The meeting ended in controversy with some Democratic lawmakers yelling out they wanted to ask questions or speak out.

“I’m not going to sit around and allow this suppression and no voice to continue,” said Al Gentry, D-Louisville.

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Ashli Watts spoke virtually during the meeting, saying Kentucky needs to find a way to shore up the $900 million loan Governor Beshear used to shore up the unemployment insurance trust fund.

Without help, it could result in a major tax increase in businesses.

McNamara also told lawmakers he believes he was scapegoated and fired in retaliation.

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