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Chaos ensues at in-person unemployment help

In a matter of minutes, optimism quickly changed to tears and frustration.
Posted at 12:49 AM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-18 01:56:22-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — After months of no calls back, many Kentuckians traveled from across the state to the Capitol for in-person help on unemployment on Wednesday. The last group of people was promised they'd be seen Wednesday but were suddenly turned away, causing an emotional reaction.

No matter how long they had to wait in line, people were optimistic they'd get answers today on when they might get their unemployment checks. And they were promised just that, answers, even though they were still in line after the day was scheduled to end at 6 p.m.

"I'm just ecstatic about being able to see somebody in person. Because if not, I don't think it would be maybe August or September before we even got to anybody," Jamaica Gibson said.

The office told LEX 18 they had to turn away nearly 600 people because they knew they wouldn't be able to get to them all.

"I was overwhelmed when I got to the line, but the people that have been walking thru have been really helpful. Keeping everybody calm, and 'we're going to get to you, so don't worry.' Today has been helpful," Casandra Petty John said.

In a matter of minutes, optimism quickly changed to tears and frustration. People inside refused to leave, causing more police officers to be called in.

Outside, people voiced their frustrations after being told at 6:50 p.m. they would not be seen on Wednesday. The office blamed the computer system shutting down at 7 p.m., not allowing staff to input new information.

McKenzie Reed and Emeion Jackson got in line at 9 a.m. McKenzie is five months pregnant, has gone three months without a paycheck, and they just received an eviction notice.

"Am I supposed to live on the streets? Am I supposed to be homeless with her? That's not safe. I was told that the government was here to help me, but I'm not receiving any help," Reed said.

The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet released a statement that the capacity had been reached and everyone left would be reached by phone. But, clearly, most here say that's not good enough. "Of course, I'm furious. Of course, I'm frustrated. Of course, I'm angry with you all. Of course, I want to get loud. Because you all have told me that before, and I've received nothing," Reed said.

Added to that, the people left in line Wednesday night were not guaranteed a spot at the front of the line for in-person unemployment help on Thursday morning.