LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — As the state was facing thousands of unemployment claims a year ago, some got personal help from the former unemployment insurance director at the request of superiors, including Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman.
According to text messages obtained by WDRB News, in at least four instances last April, Coleman texted the then-executive director of the Office of Unemployment Insurance, Muncie McNamara, asking for special attention to certain people's unemployment claims.
McNamara, along with Commissioner of Workforce Investment Marty Hammons, quickly got to Coleman's requests.
Along with being the lieutenant governor, Coleman also serves as secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. McNamara and Hammons ultimately reported to Coleman at the time of the messages, and unemployment insurance was within Coleman's cabinet.
Last summer, Gov. Beshear moved the Office of Unemployment Insurance to the Labor Cabinet.
Beshear's office responded to the WDRB article through a statement from J.T. Henderson, the director of communications in Coleman's office.
"Many Kentuckians were impacted economically by this once in a century pandemic. They reached out in numerous ways to receive help with their unemployment insurance claims," said JT Henderson, Director of Communications for Lt. Gov. Coleman, in a statement. "The administration, including the Lieutenant Governor, gets daily calls, emails and letters from the public, local officials and even the media, asking for particular UI claims to be reviewed. These claims sometimes involve people known by the recipient. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lt. Gov. and other officials, have followed a process of forwarding requests to the UI team in order to resolve claims."
"Because of these unprecedented times, Kentuckians reached out in numerous ways to receive help with their unemployment insurance claims. The administration, including the Lieutenant Governor, gets daily calls, emails and letters from the public, local officials, and even the media, such as WDRB, asking for particular UI claims to be reviewed," Henderson said in the statement. "Following a process designed to help resolve claims, those requests are forwarded to the UI team. These claims sometimes involve people known by the recipient. These people, like all Kentuckians, are hurting and need help."
"Certainly, nobody's position should influence where somebody is in that line, but if there are people that are struggling to get their unemployment, and their information has been provided, we can send that on to the office," Gov. Beshear said during a Monday press conference. "Now, that's something that other officials have asked for and that's a conduit we've tried to allow."
"This latest disturbing revelation shows yet again that at every turn, Gov. Andy Beshear's administration puts politics first and everyday Kentuckians last," said Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Mike Lonergan. "The governor ordered Kentuckians out of work, his administration ignored hundreds of thousands of cries for help from Kentuckians in need and went to bat for their politically connected friends instead. Kentuckians deserve better than Gov. Andy Beshear's disgraceful political games."
Kentucky has received 1.96 million unemployment insurance claims since the start of the pandemic and paid out nearly $6 billion, including federal supplements, Coleman's spokesperson J.T. Henderson said in a statement.
"There are still Kentuckians who need help," said Henderson. "No one in state government will be satisfied until they have received the benefits for which they are eligible."