In March, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the state ordered “non-essential” businesses to close to help prevent the spread of the virus.
And 900,000 Kentuckians filed for unemployment benefits.
Roughly one-tenth of them — 90,000 — are still waiting for their first unemployment paycheck.
State figures say roughly 6,900 cases from March are still unresolved along with 25,000 from April and 17,400 from May.
More than 40,000 filed for the first time during the first week of June.
To speed the process, the state has set up temporary unemployment offices at such places as Owensboro Community & Technical College.
But that office is only open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, June 30.
When it opened at 9 a.m. Monday, more than two dozen people were waiting outside the building.
About half had appointments.
The others were just hoping to be able to talk to someone about their claims.
They were all trying to get answers to when their first checks will arrive.
Priscilla Baize said March 12 as the last day she was able to work.
“We have four kids at home,” she said. “It’s been really bad. I need money coming in.”
Baize said she was laid off, not furloughed.
There is no job to go back to, she said.
Baize said the only response she’s had from the state was a message that her claim is “under investigation.”
Several others were getting the same response.
Madison Barnett was one of them.
She said her unemployment check started and then she was told to bring in her pay stubs from January to March.
After she did that, her checks stopped, Barnett said.
She said she can’t get anyone on the phone or online to tell her what’s going on.
Carol McQuiston had a similar problem.
“One week, I got my check,” she said. “And then, it just stopped. I can’t get anyone on the phone and the computer just stopped.”
Linda Mapp said, “They’ve been giving me the runaround since March 18. Thank God for this” temporary unemployment office.
Alexandra Wright said her last day at work was March 17.
“I’ve been in Tier 3 since April 6,” she said.
Tier 3 is the level where state employees are supposed to be able to resolve problems quickly.
John Church is a single parent of a second-grader.
When schools and child care facilities both closed in March, he had no one to care of his child, he said.
Church said he had to quit work in mid-April to stay home with his child.
“I just did an eligibility review last week,” he said. “But I haven’t been able to find out anything about it.”
The state hasn’t predicted how long it will take to resolve all the problems.
But Marjorie Arnold, chief of staff for the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, said in an email, “The state will make a significant announcement on Tuesday about additional assistance to help process the unprecedented volume of claims created by the pandemic. No one in state government will be satisfied until all Kentuckians have received the benefits for which they qualify.”
Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301, firstname.lastname@example.org