LEGISLATIVE UPDATE Lost jobs? Hours cut? Frequently Asked Questions as Kentuckians turn to safety net of unemployment insurance By State Representat
Our daily lives have changed a great deal since the first Kentuckian tested positive for COVID-19 in early March. Our schools have closed, businesses shut down, and terms like “social distancing” and “flatten the curve” have become part of our daily conversations.
According to the state’s COVID website (www.kycovid19.ky.gov), as of yesterday April 19, the Department of Public Health (DPH) has confirmed 2,960 cases and the deaths of 148 Kentuckians. Our medical providers are working nonstop to treat patients and prepare for what they expect will be a big surge in cases. Public health officials continue to warn us away from any activity that might expose groups of people to the virus. Manufacturers are changing their production lines to reflect COVID needs, including making personal protection equipment, while our distilleries have gone from making bourbon to hand sanitizer. This pandemic is a big health threat, but Kentuckians are doing what needs to be done to get through it.
Our state’s health is the top priority right now. However, that does not mean we can turn a blind eye to the impact COVID-19 is having on jobs and our economy. Going into the beginning, our state enjoyed the lowest unemployment rates in history. More Kentuckians were working, and more jobs were coming as we also saw record investment in expanding and building new companies. This was the result of pro-jobs legislation passed by the legislature, measures that placed an “open for business” sign on our state. We are still very committed to growing our economy, but our short-term goals have now changed as we focus our efforts on repairing the damage done by COVID-19. In late March, we passed a COVID-relief bill that made major changes to our unemployment insurance system. They included eliminating the waiting period, expanding those allowed to receive benefits to include the self-employed, and allowing employees who have had been reduced to part-time to draw a partial benefit. The bill also protects small business owners from having their rate negatively impacted because they were forced to lay employees off as a result of COVID-19. Congress and the President have also made changes to unemployment insurance, including almost tripling the weekly benefit and extending the number of benefit weeks from 26 to 39.
Why did we make so many changes to unemployment insurance? It’s quite simple – unemployment insurance (UI) is one of the most effective safety nets for both workers and the economy. Like most insurance policies, we pay into it when we don’t need it in order to have it when we do. In the case of UI, employers pay into it based on the number of employees they have. If an employee loses their job through no fault of their own, as we are seeing right now, they then draw payments. Those payments are based on a rate set by the government and not a dollar for dollar match for lost income, but they do help pay bills and provide for basic needs. That, in turn, keeps money in our state’s economy.
If you need to apply for benefits, please visit kewes.ky.gov. I will tell you; I am receiving a lot of phone calls and emails from people who are having a difficult time with the application process. When I inquired about that, I was told that they are working on the problems and have brought in more than a thousand additional people to help move the process along.In the meantime, here are a few answers to frequently asked questions that might help you through the process. These are from the state’s unemployment insurance website.
Q: When do I need to request my first payment?
Kentuckians affected by COVID-19 will receive payment for their first two weeks automatically after 13 days from the day the initial claim was filed. You will need to request your next payment by either by calling 1-877-369-5984 or www.kewes.ky.gov. You will receive further information for subsequent check requests via email after the first payment is processed.
Q: How much can I expect as my weekly benefit amount?
You may estimate your weekly benefit amount by going to http://apps.kcc.ky.gov/career/WuiCalculator.aspx
- Enter your earnings into the appropriate quarters.
- You can log into your account 24 hours after submitting your claim, go to the Account Summary page and it will display your benefit amount.
Q: I tried to create an account, but it says my information already exists?
The system you are accessing may contain information back to 2003. If your attempt to register as a New User shows an error stating that social already exists in our system, you will need to click ‘Cancel’. From the Log In screen, click ‘Forgot’ PIN. When prompted, enter your social security number and any name variation you may have used since 2003 (maiden, former married, shortened name i.e. John instead of Johnathan, etc.). Also note that if you have a suffix (Jr, Sr, etc), those fields are spacing and punctuation sensitive. Attempt with and without punctuation. If you are still unable to access the system, contact the UI Assistance line at (502) 564-2900, option 5, then option 6.
Q: What is available for the self-employed/contractors?
Unemployment Insurance benefits have been expanded due to COVID-19 to include groups that are typically not covered by UI:
- Independent contractors
- Freelance workers
- Substitute teachers
- Childcare workers employed by religious-affiliated organizations and non-profits
It also includes people leaving employment because of COVID-19 due to:
- Reasonable risk of exposure (self-quarantine)
- Caring for a family member affected by COVID-19
I hope this information helps someone as I continue to work hard to support our region. I continue to pray for everyone and know as Kentuckians we will stand strong and come out of this pandemic even stronger.
I can be reached through the toll-free legislative message line at 1-800-372-7181, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For the latest information on the novel coronavirus in Kentucky, please visit kycovid19.ky.gov or email email@example.com. If you believe you may have symptoms, please call the hotline at 1-800-722-5725.Add your expanded detail here.