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Nine months and counting: Thousands still seeking unemployment benefits

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Posted at 7:20 PM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 21:25:28-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — More than 1.4 million unemployment insurance claims have been filed in Kentucky since March according to the state's Labor Cabinet.

Officials say more than $5 billion has been paid out so far.

But for the thousands that remain unanswered, that's still not enough.

When Kentucky was effectively closed for business in March, many restaurants, retail shops, and all schools locked their doors.

That left thousands of workers scrambling for unemployment benefits, including Hannah Puckett.

Puckett didn't receive benefits for months, so her mother reached out to LEX18 for help reaching someone in Frankfort.

One day after this story aired, Puckett finally got a response.

That news inspired a co-worker of Puckett's mother to email us.

Candace Collins takes care of three children at home, and initially received benefits when her office was closed through June. But once she could return to work, there was a problem.

"When the daycares opened back up in Jessamine County where I live, the daycare my children go to was not operating at 100% capacity. So they were only taking so many kids for each age for each classroom," said Collins.

Because she had to watch her kids a few days a week, she says she was unable to return to work full-time. Collins says she was eventually let go, and it took her six weeks to find another job. That's the timeframe she says she's missing unemployment benefits."

Still trying to play catch-up where I did get over a month behind on everything you know. Having to overdraft my account a couple of times just to make sure everything was paid," said Collins.

Ashley French was working in retail when her store closed in March.

Since Fayette County Schools went virtual this fall, French has stayed home to guide her kids through on-line learning.

She's still out-of-work, and filed for unemployment a few months ago."I was approved for the PUA unemployment. I got the letter, the approval, everything. And then when it came time for the first payment, my stuff went into 'under investigation.' I've tried to reach out, tried to call, I haven't heard anything back," said French.

Rebecca Presley is also waiting for her unemployment insurance money, but her situation is a little different.

She left her job for medical reasons, not because of COVID-19.

"I was working for addiction recovery care and I'm waiting on a hip replacement and I was just in too much pain to continue working," Presley said.

She received a letter from the State back in May saying she was eligible for unemployment, but she hasn't heard anything else since.

"The delay that I've had, I believe, is due to COVID," Presley said when explaining that getting any answers had been challenging. "I would be put in queue. They would ask for your number and tell you they'd call you back and I never got a call back."

Without any financial assistance for months, she is struggling to pay her mortgage.

"It's been terrible," Presley said. "We are a one-income family. Everything is behind. We can't get caught up and some things had had to just be let go."

Now, her 17-year-old son, Mark Bell, is delaying college so he can start working to help out.

"I love you," Presley whispered to her son over Zoom. "I love you, too," he responded.

As of Tuesday, more than 600 claims from March remained unresolved.