Kentuckians receiving unemployment benefits could be eligible for a $1,500 payment if they re-enter the workforce by the end of July.
Gov. Andy Beshear announced the new back-to-work incentive at a press conference Thursday afternoon. Kentucky officials estimate roughly 60,000 residents are receiving $300 in weekly pandemic unemployment assistance on top of state unemployment benefits. The state is setting aside $22.5 million in federal CARES Act funding for the new program, which would cover the incentive payments for 15,000 participants.
Some critics have called for the end of the additional unemployment benefits. Beshear says doing so would harm Kentucky families and the economy.
“The $300 weekly unemployment payments continue to pump around $34 million into our economy every single week,” he said. “People spend that money in places that were hit the hardest during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Beshear said data shows much of the additional money is being spent on groceries, retail and restaurants. Instead of suddenly stopping unemployment assistance, he said the incentive program can “thread a needle” of balancing the need for workers and the needs of struggling Kentuckians.
“All along I’ve said we’re not going to make our decisions red or blue, Democrat or Republican, but based on sound economic principles,” Beshear said.
Only residents of Kentucky who are currently receiving unemployment are eligible for the one-time $1,500 payment. A person must work at least 120 hours during their first four weeks of employment in order to qualify.
Applications for the back-to-work incentive program will open August 2, though people will have had to return to work before August 1 to qualify. A full list of eligibility requirements and the application can be found on the state’s website.