Ky. state auditor testifies about unemployment system; protest held in Frankfort

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 5:22 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - State lawmakers have advanced a bill they say will address at least some of the unemployment problems people have had over the past year.

One issue we’ve heard a lot about is people being told to pay back the money they tried so hard to earn when they lost their jobs during the pandemic. Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon also told lawmakers that the state system, to process claims, was a failure.

And through Wednesday, people who say they’re still waiting on help have gathered in Frankfort for a 24-hour protest.

Auditor Harmon told lawmakers they looked at a backlog of claims, and discovered high-risk decisions were made.

“In an attempt to pay benefits more quickly, many claims were still not timely processed,” Auditor Harmon said.

The auditor highlighted 400,000 unread emails and problems with trying to quickly pay benefits—which he says broke federal law through auto pay.

The same panel also advanced a bill that will address issues of those who received money, only to be told to pay it back. Senator David Givens says the problem is that the labor cabinet tried and failed to get a federal waiver to fix it.

“A portion of what you see in this legislation is us permitting a one-time window for forgiveness of overpayments where claimants did not have a claim on the UI system,” Senator Givens said.

As that committee meeting was ending, a protest was beginning, made up of people who say despite repeated attempts and cries for help, their claims remain unresolved and some people haven’t worked since last spring.

Many say they are tired of excuses given by the governor of outdated systems or fraud.

“At this point we think something should have been done, to fix the system get us some help. Open some offices, more appointments for us, something, because we can’t get through to the phone system,” said Misty Gaipan, who is seeking unemployment.

She and others say they’re planning to protest all day through the night, and end on Wednesday.

“As you see I have eight to nine months, and I haven’t received a dime yet. Nothing yet. I have called these people, they won’t answer us,” Phillip Kirby said.

They’re hoping now they will be seen and heard, to get some help.

The Senate bill dealing with federal waivers for overpayments passed the panel 10 to nothing, and now goes to the full Senate floor.

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