Press release from Ky House of Representative leadership.
On behalf of constituents across the state, House Majority Leadership released the following statement calling on Governor Andy Beshear to respond to multiple concerns about the executive branch’s management of unemployment insurance and other critical issues stemming from the state’s response to the COVID-19 crisis:
“For two consecutive days, more than a thousand Kentuckians lined up around our Capitol. Today the line around the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is equally long. These men and women stand for eight or more hours in line to talk to someone about their unemployment insurance (UI) claim. This is the first time that many of these people really need government, and it is failing them. Many have gone months without a paycheck, the collateral damage of a massive failure of leadership within the executive branch. By the end of the second day, 1,100 people were reportedly served. This is just a drop in the bucket, but a shift that provides hope for the more than 50,000 Kentuckians still waiting.
“We were openly supportive of the Governor’s early efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and offered assistance multiple times. Instead of publicly criticizing the Governor’s approach, House Majority Leadership recognized the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and reserved public comment instead communicating directly to the Governor’s staff. However, in the weeks and months since the first case was diagnosed, a shameful pattern has developed that calls a great deal into question and demands consideration. Specifically, these issue areas include unemployment insurance, skilled nursing and long term care, state prisons, the protection of personal data, and the decision-making process behind reopening our state. Many are suffering mightily, yet this Governor has to be pushed by the public, the media, and the courts to take the steps necessary to mitigate the many critical issues that the state’s response to COVID-19 has created.
“The unemployment insurance debacle is a disaster, and this week’s last minute opening of a pop-up office on the grounds of the Capitol only further drives home the point that his administration can do the right thing, but for some inexplicable reason, they continue to ignore problems until they fester beyond control. Our members have talked to thousands of Kentuckians who have been waiting for unemployment insurance benefits since March and early April. We applaud the opening of a pop-up UI office to give in person assistance. It was the right thing to do and appears to be working as those able to make the trip to Frankfort got help. But it only makes it more evident that the rest of the state and those waiting in line deserve to be treated better. Most applicants being “investigated” have never spoken to a human being with the administration. We know this because our members have talked with many of them.
“Despite the Governor’s constant reassurances, too many Kentuckians feel forgotten and discarded by a program that exists to provide them a safety net. In late March, the Governor told Kentuckians his administration would meet the increased demand on UI. In mid-April, he continued to share that only a small number of claims were unprocessed and laid the blame on customer errors. On April 27, the administration announced a new hotline specifically for unpaid March filers. Just last week, his administration told reporters that more than 600 claims workers were no longer at work themselves.
“This crisis is not an opportunity to set aside the daily responsibilities and moral obligations of state government. Just as every single Kentuckian – individuals, business owners, everyone - is dealing with the consequences of this pandemic and fulfilling their normal day-to-day responsibilities, so must our state’s government. It may be tempting to claim our concerns are politically motivated. They are in fact the result of thousands of constituent phone calls, emails, texts, and conversations with the people of our districts. These men and women deserve and demand an equal, balanced, consistent, common sense approach and leadership.
“While our authority is severely limited when we are not in session, we call upon the Governor to address these issues, to take decisive action, and to empower stakeholders to do what needs to be done to open this state safely, quickly, and without unnecessary requirements.”