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Jobless may see gap in extended benefits




FRANKFORT

Jobless Kentuckians whose state and federal unemployment checks have run out may have an eight-week gap before their newly extended benefits start arriving.

A spokesman for Gov. Steve

Beshear told The Courier-Journal

of Louisville that while the unemployed will receive all the money that is due to them, it may take time for state workers to be trained and for computer systems to be updated.

Beshear signed an emergency order April 17 that allows Kentucky to use no-strings-attached federal stimulus money to help unemployed workers who have used up their 26 weeks of state benefits and 33 weeks of federal benefits and still haven’t found jobs.

Jay Blanton, a spokesman for the governor, said jobless workers are now eligible for an extra 13 weeks of benefits.

“The experience in other states has been that it can take up to eight weeks to get everything in place,” he said. “We will get everyone their payments and benefits, but it will take some time to get the processes in place to make sure we’re doing it right.”

The delay worries some unemployed workers who say they’ve already drained their savings and retirement plans to survive the past year.

“If I have to wait eight weeks from the time my extended benefits run out (in early May), it will be difficult to pay my bills,” said Christina Dillon, who is now searching for work out of state.

Dillon, 44, said she has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and 20 years of product management experience and “can’t even get nibbles on my resume. I never in my lifetime thought I’d have this much of a problem finding work.”

Beshear issued the emergency order when it became clear that the benefits wouldn’t automati- cally kick in before jobless workers began exhausting existing aid.

He said last month that he believed the workers would be eligible for the additional benefits because the state’s “insured unemployment rate” would reach 5 percent — high enough to automatically trigger the additional benefits.

But that did not happen.

In fact, the rate, which is calculated weekly by the U.S. Department of Labor, dropped from 4.91 percent April 12 to 4.84 percent last Sunday.

The insured unemployment rate is the percentage of workers who have received benefits in the past quarter. Workers who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state benefits but have not found jobs and are collecting federal benefits are not counted.

Under the emergency regulation, the state can now use a different unemployment calculation to provide the extra 13 weeks of coverage after residents exhaust their regular state and federal benefits.

Also under the emergency regulation, once the 13 weeks are exhausted, jobless Kentuckians may be eligible for another seven weeks of assistance if Kentucky’s three-month unemployment rate remains above 8 percent. The current three-month rate is 9.3 percent.

To receive the extended benefits, jobless workers will face more demanding requirements to prove they are searching for work, Blanton said.

“They have to show pretty detailed evidence, as I understand it, of an active job search,” he said.

Blanton said the more rigorous requirements are the reason for the additional training and computer updates.

“Once all that is in place, the Office of Employment and Training will notify those eligible to apply for the extended benefits,” he said.


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