Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday announced four new strategies in dealing with the unemployment insurance issues that have plagued the state since the start of the pandemic, leaving tens of thousands of people waiting for their checks.
The first involves a new computer system to replace the decades-old one. “It has required us to bring back retirees just to help us get basic information out of the system,” Beshear said. “This is 10 years too late, but we’re doing it now.”
Beshear says the RFP, or Request for Proposals, for the replacement has concluded and is now being evaluated. He noted there was a delay because of resubmitting it to address heightened cybersecurity concerns. A schedule for future upgrades is also being considered.
The second issue is dealing with the fraudulent claims “in a way that doesn’t drown the real claims,” he said. “We have to sort through tens of thousands of now fraudulent claims to potentially find the real claims. That slows us down significantly and it raises concerns that we would pay out fraudulent claims because there are so many.”
He says to file claims now, an applicant must prove they are a real person first. “By doing this, we ferret out those tens of thousands of fraudulent claims, so that every one that comes in is a real claim.”
The governor says this will eliminate the bots and cyberattacks from other countries they have seen.
His third step is to again submit to the General Assembly a budget request for sufficient staff to run the unemployment insurance office.
“We do not have enough people who can work the claims and we’ve lost people that can work the claims,” Beshear said. “We need more people who can process, and more people who can train, and more people who can cross-train. This staff was cut by more than 90 people in the years leading up to my administration.”
The fourth proposal is a merger of the Labor Cabinet and the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet into one agency, which will be called the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet.
“We’ve had an opportunity to talk to numerous folks about this and we believe, and our feedback is that education and workforce are inseparable,” Beshear said. “They are inseparable whether we’re talking about training, whether we’re talking about K-12 and then going into the workforce, whether we’re talking about K-college or graduate school into the workforce. This is a continuum, and it’s been recognized as such by the country, for instance the grants, that we have a hard time competing for because of the current structure. So, we believe that this is a positive step that will make us more competitive but also more resilient.”
Beshear says this will require the General Assembly to approve a reorganization bill, when lawmakers convene in January.
Written by Tom Latek. Cross-posted from Kentucky Today.
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