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Task force voices concerns over recommended unemployment fixes

Posted at 5:47 PM, Nov 30, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — After months of work, Kentucky's Unemployment Insurance Task Force passed its recommendations to lawmakers on Monday.

  • The group recommends the General Assembly explores the following UI topics next year:
  • Indexing of number of weeks benefits are payable to the state unemployment insurance rate
  • Increasing the number of job contacts a claimant must make in a week
  • Capping the amount of benefits that can be received if a worker’s regular weekly benefit rate is temporarily increased or supplemented by federal, state, or local funds during a state of emergency
  • Change the charging method for employers to a “proportion to base-period wages” method
  • Reforming the UI Tax system
  • Implementing a comprehensive job referral program into the unemployment insurance system
  • Decrease from three years to one year the period of time for an employer to qualify for an experience rating
  • Develop ways to improve workforce participation
  • Switch the emphasis of the system from unemployment to reemployment.
  • Strengthen internal policies of the Labor Cabinet to ensure that employees of the Cabinet cannot access their own UI claim information
  • Improve transparency and access to information at the Labor Cabinet
  • Combat UI fraud by locking known fraudsters out of the system
  • Implementation of the recommendations made by the Auditor in his report
  • Increased funding of the UI system to implement reforms
  • Continued monitoring of the production of a new UI system technology upgrade
  • Consider the reforms recommended in House Bill 317 from the 2019 Regular Session

The long list is mostly vague, but some labor groups worry the recommendations will lead to laws that cut unemployment benefits.
"Any changes that you make to unemployment is going to hurt working people in Kentucky," said Jeff Wiggins of the Kentucky chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Wiggins reminded lawmakers that cutting unemployment benefits will not get people back into the workforce quicker. He said the problem is not that people do not want to work.

"People are willing to work, but they're not going to work for free anymore," said Wiggins. "People that wait on tables - they get two dollars and something an hour, plus tips. They want a living minimum wage."

LEX 18 asked task force Chairman, Sen. Mike Nemes, about the concerns. He said the things people are worried about haven't been written into any bills at this point.

"That isn't in any legislation now," said Nemes. "That is a concern of theirs that hasn't come to fruition yet."