Will Kentucky follow other states and end extra unemployment benefits?

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDKY) – Will Kentucky end or phase out the federal unemployment program?

Some states are cutting ties with the plan that provides an extra $300 a week payment to people out of work.

So far, Kentucky has no plans to do that but some say more needs to be done to encourage people to go back to work.

About 300,000 jobs were lost in Kentucky at the peak of the pandemic and state chamber of commerce officials say two-thirds of those have been recovered.

“There are jobs available,” said Kate Shanks, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. “We have 95,000 jobs in our who’s hiring campaign we started last year.”

Tennessee has twice that many jobs available and will end federal unemployment benefits on June 3. Ohio will on June 26. Alabama and Mississippi are also cutting off the extra $300 weekly payment.

“I think those governors are acting too hastily and too harshly,” said State Sen. Reggie Thomas.

“I think we have to look at whether this additional unemployment assistance is encouraging people to continue to receive this benefit and not return to work,” said State Rep. Russell Webber.

Some of these other states also require at least three active job searches a week. Kentucky began requiring people to prove they’re looking for work on Sunday.

Chamber officials say they pushed Governor Beshear to make that a requirement. The federal benefits are already scheduled to end this fall.

“But it’s planned to be a phased-out approach,” Shanks said. “We think it’s important it not be extended.”

“Let’s start by incentivizing people to go back to work by paying them more,” Sen. Thomas said.

But, some say there’s not much incentive to earn a paycheck.

“They are better off financially to say home rather than to go back to work,” said U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce officials say some people are still facing child or adult care issues or concerns about health and safety as barriers to going back to work.

Other than the weekly $300, some states are also ending extra unemployment help for the self-employed.

Governor Beshear’s office released this statement about the federal benefits:

PUA has been critical in helping our families and our economy through this crisis. While most Kentuckians have returned to work, we need to continue to assist Kentuckians as we begin to emerge from this pandemic until more of our neighbors are able to return to the workforce. There is also a significant economic impact at more than $34 million a week that is critical to our businesses, particularly grocers and retailers. The administration is in active talks with Kentucky employers about new strategies to fill good jobs and we are all optimistic about the future.

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