Kentucky lawmakers interview Beshear officials about backlog, loans
Kentucky is still processing about 50,000 jobless claims filed in March, April and May, despite state officials on Wednesday announcing that contractors started working off the backlog this week.
The government of Democratic Governor Andy Beshear announced last week that the state would pay the service company Ernst & Young $ 7.4 million to deal with the 300-strong backlog.
During a meeting of the Legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Funds and Revenue Wednesday, Republican Senator Mike Nemes said he had “quite a bit of trouble” with the treaty, arguing that hiring more government employees could have saved the state money.
“For $ 7.4 million you could hire 100 people on benefits for a year,” said Nemes, who previously served as the Kentucky Labor Cabinet’s assistant secretary in Governor Matt Bevin’s administration.
Kentucky has received more than 900,000 new jobless claims since the coronavirus pandemic began in March.
Amy Cubbage, general counsel of the cabinet, said the state signed the contract because workers were pre-schooled and the state did not have to pay for their services.
“We don’t have to pay for anything of that kind,” said Cubbage. “We can quickly deploy 300 processors to work through this backlog in a cost-effective manner that is paid for with federal funding.”
Beshear said last week that part of the reason the state signed with Ernst & Young is to help Colorado tackle its unemployment arrears. Cubbage said officials hope to clear the backlog, or at least be close to it, by the end of the month.
Officials also announced more registrations for people to get personal help with their unemployment claims. The new appointments will take place next week in Covington and Prestonsburg (appointments can be arranged here). Registrations in the main office of the work cabinet in Frankfurt are booked until September.
Legislators also questioned the Beshear administration’s decision to borrow a $ 865 million federal government loan to prop up their Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, the main pool of unemployment claims.
Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville (and son of Mike Nemes), said the decision to take out the loan should have been made by the legislature.
“I believe that it is not for a governor or the government to make such decisions, not to speak to one another,” said Nemes. “I think it’s a grave presumption of our rights as a body.”
Josh Benton, assistant secretary of the cabinet for education and human resource development, said without the loan, the Kentucky Unemployment Trust Fund would have “gone to zero” in mid-June.
Kentucky took out nearly $ 1 billion on a loan in 2009 to help keep its unemployment system from collapsing. The loan was paid off in 2015.