Unemployment claims surge in Kentucky due to virus outbreak
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The number of Kentucky residents filing for unemployment benefits surged in the past week as many businesses closed or scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly 49,000 Kentucky residents applied for unemployment assistance last week, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday, a reflection of the dramatic economic disruption caused by the virus. In the prior week, fewer than 2,800 claims had been filed.
Meanwhile, the state reported its largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases, Gov. Andy Beshear said during his daily briefing. Kentucky’s total coronavirus cases approached 250, an increase of 50 cases from the previous day, he said.
Beshear urged county judge-executives and mayors to closely monitor parks and other public gathering places, and to shut them down if people fail to observe social-distancing guidelines.
“Something we don’t want to have to do, but again these are the lives and the health of people out there," the governor said. “And if that’s what it takes to encourage folks to do the right thing, we’re going to do that.”
Officials at state parks were being given the same authority to shut down gathering places if people don't adhere to social-distancing measures, Beshear said, citing reports of large groups of people congregating at state park campgrounds.
Regarding the growing number of business closures, Beshear announced Wednesday that independent contractors, hair stylists, child care workers at churches and those who work gig-to-gig but have been shut down because of the virus will be eligible for unemployment benefits.
In response to the influx of people seeking unemployment benefits, the state recently started new filing procedures and opened new local office phone lines.
Kentuckians seeking unemployment benefits are asked to follow a schedule aimed at spreading out claims filings. The day people can file claims is based on the first initial in their last names.
Struggling workers and the unemployed should get another cash boost from the $2.2 trillion emergency package that was nearing final approval in Congress.
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said the package would “inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible to help American workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption."
The House was expected to vote on the plan Friday. The one-time payments would be sent directly to Americans — $1,200 per adult earning up to $75,000 a year; $2,400 for married couples earning up to $150,000, plus $500 per child.
Meanwhile, federal and state law enforcement agencies are forming a coronavirus task force to investigate and prosecute fraud cases. The task force is a partnership of U.S. Attorneys, the FBI and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron. The task force will review and investigate credible leads of fraud associated with the coronavirus pandemic, including fake cures, medical supply scams and charity scams.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.