As Kentucky continues to struggle with a backlog of unemployment claims dating back to March, appointments to get in-person assistance with unfilled claims are now booked through August.
Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration set up an online portal for people to sign up for in-person help with unemployment benefits late last week, but the slots quickly filled up this week.
According to the state’s career center website, in-person appointments at the Kentucky Labor Cabinet building in Frankfort were booked through August 25 (as of Friday afternoon).
The state started providing in-person help with unemployment claims in mid-June after hundreds of people who had applied for benefits, but never received them, spontaneously showed up in Frankfort demanding help with their claims.
As of June 26, there were still more than 6,700 unresolved unemployment claims in Kentucky from March, more than 25,000 from April and more than 17,000 from May.
More than one million claims have been filed in Kentucky between the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March and the end of June.
Beshear announced on Tuesday that the state would partner with professional services Ernst and Young to help clear the backlog by the end of July. The company will be paid $7.4 million and provide 300 workers to help clear the backlog by the end of July, Beshear said.
Beshear has blamed the backlog on antiquated software and unemployment policies that encourage applications to be denied or reviewed.
He’s also blamed it on cuts enacted by former Gov. Matt Bevin in 2017, when the state eliminated dozens of unemployment positions and shifted from in-person help to call centers.
But state governments across the country have also struggled to deal with a record number of unemployment applications filed in those initial months of the coronavirus pandemic.
States also had to update their systems to account for new unemployment benefits during the pandemic — contract and gig workers are now allowed to apply for benefits, and the length of time in which you can receive benefits was extended.
Meanwhile, thousands of Kentuckians continue to file for unemployment. Over the course of last week, there were 30,446 new claims filed in the state.