(OpEd By Kentucky State Senators Rick Girdler, Paul Hornback, Damon Thayer and Max Wise)
As a direct result of Gov. Andy Beshear’s shutdown orders, nearly half of Kentucky’s workforce has filed for unemployment insurance since March. As we reach the end of June, tens of thousands of Kentuckians who have filed jobless claims still have yet to receive the money they were promised and have earned.
Thousands of these claims date back to March, just as Governor Beshear began shutting our economy down. The governor issued stay-at-home orders in March, knowing full well and even admitting that his policies were going to hemorrhage jobs across the Commonwealth.
We and many of our fellow lawmakers were and remain today supporters of early emergency response measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus – such as practicing social distancing, avoiding unnecessary gatherings and more. We also worked in a bipartisan way to enact much-needed relief for Kentucky’s families, businesses and communities.
Meanwhile, the Governor gave his first coronavirus briefing in March and has made time for hundreds of hours of press conferences filled with platitudes, and even song and dance. Yet his administration’s handling of the crisis grows worse almost daily.
With nearly one million Kentuckians jobless as a result of the Governor’s orders, and tens of thousands of these people in need still lacking the benefits they were promised, it would be reasonable to expect the administration to act swiftly to fix the problem.
But the Governor and his administration continue to drag their feet and fail time and time again, turning Kentucky’s massive backlog of unemployment insurance claims into a national embarrassment. Hundreds of Kentuckians awaiting jobless benefits – many since the crisis began in March – even had to travel to Frankfort from all around the state to fight for their claims.
When families are struggling to make ends meet – especially when the Governor’s orders put them out of work in the first place – the last thing they should have to do is put the family in the car, drive for hours and stand out in the hot sun to demand the Governor and his administration act.
Time and time again, while families in need still suffer, the Governor offers excuse after excuse from bureaucrats and politicians in his administration – but far too little action to end the unemployment backlog. On June 24, more than a week after citizens began gathering in Frankfort to fight for their unemployment insurance benefits – Governor Beshear finally announced a schedule of in-person service in communities around the state.
Yet in some communities, this schedule won’t even start until after the Independence Day holiday – even though some families don’t have the luxury of time when it comes to paying their bills.
Kentuckians who have been out of work for weeks and months on end can’t afford his inaction and excuses any longer. Governor Andy Beshear needs to correct this national embarrassment and do whatever it takes to get the people he put out of work the unemployment insurance benefits they were promised in the first place.
Senator Rick Girdler represents District 15, which includes Boyle, Lincoln and Pulaski Counties. Senator Paul Hornback represents District 20, which includes Carroll, Henry, Shelby and Trimble Counties and part of Jefferson County. Senator Damon Thayer represents District 17, which includes Grant and Scott Counties and part of Kenton County. Senator Max Wise represents District 16, which includes Adair, Clinton, Cumberland, McCreary, Russell, Taylor and Wayne Counties.