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Kentuckians wonder about unemployment now that federal assistance has ended

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Posted at 4:36 PM, Sep 06, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — On a day meant to celebrate working people, millions are losing out on their jobless benefits.

The federal pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) programs, which initially added $600 a week in benefits ended September 6. But there are workers who say they never received any of the money in the first place.

Lexington mother Lynn Harding, is one of those people. She filed for unemployment assistance in August of 2020 when her kids started virtual school. More than a year later, she's still waiting to be paid.

"I'm mad. If you want me to be honest I am very mad," said Harding. "They don't answer phone calls, they don't answer emails. I understand everybody's short-staffed and stuff, but a year without a payment is kind of ridiculous."

When she last did the math on how much she was owed, it totaled $17,000.

"I could pay off the vehicle. I could catch my bills up, I could go to Disney World on $17,000," said Harding.

She showed us letters she got from the Kentucky Unemployment Office, including one backdated to August 2020 that she received in the mail on August 27, 2021.

She has since found a job and is currently working. But now Harding wants to know what the pandemic unemployment assistance ending means for people like her.

LEX 18 reached out to the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance and the governor's office and did not receive a response.

However, from our research, we found that Kentuckians should still be able to get retroactive unemployment benefits if they can get a hold of someone.

"Even if I didn't get the federal boost from it and just got the state money that's owed. that's $8,000," explained Harding.

While it seems like a unique situation, Harding is not alone.

Over the course of the pandemic, LEX 18 has heard from thousands of Kentuckians struggling with the same issues. So many that we had to make a separate unemployment email account to respond to requests for help. Those requests continue to come in daily.

Harding is prepared to drive five hours to and from Bowling Green for an in-person appointment.

"It's a long drive down there and like I said, I just started work and everything. I had to take off work so that's even more money, I'm out. Taking off that day of work plus the gas down there and back. I've got to pay a sitter to watch my kids," said Harding.

Even through it all, she feels lucky to have a husband to help pay bills, while others may not be in the same situation.

"Even if I don't get my money, just reach out to the families who desperately need it. I mean, we've been able to stay afloat, but not every family has," said Harding.

Even though federal relief is done, if you've been laid off or furloughed, you can apply for unemployment benefits in Kentucky.

Some companies have complained about people taking advantage of the PUA system and a lack of available workers. They're hoping the end in benefits will help with that.