Despite uncertainty about a federal program that offers an additional $400 a week unemployment benefit, Gov. Andy Beshear said Kentucky will apply to participate in that program.
The state will cover $100 of each supplement through its CARES Act allocation, which permits governments to reimburse expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rest of the funding will come from federal funds as a part of FEMA’s Lost Wages Program.
Beshear said he believed Kentucky would be the first state to offer the full $400 per week benefit. He called the $100 that would come from the state’s pot of coronavirus funding “critically important,” even as he acknowledged Kentucky may need that funding if the federal government does not offer more relief.
“Right now it’s just too important to get it to our families,” he said. “And knowing that it does, as it cycles through our economy, come back and positively help our budgets.”
Earlier Wednesday, Kentucky’s budget director John Hicks said the state needs more federal assistance.
Beshear said the $400 benefit would apply to the weeks of July 26 through August 15 through all unemployment programs, for individuals who were unemployed or partially unemployed. He said payments could be expected in September.
Hicks said Wednesday the state has spent about 45% of its $1.6 billion in CARES Act funding so far. That leaves about $880 million. Beshear estimated the state’s portion of the three-week grant would total about $24 million, or about $8 million a week.
Last week, Beshear voiced concerns about the program, instead calling for the federal government to extend the $600 a week supplement that expired at the end of July. He said then that the new funding should also come in the same form as the old. That isn’t happening.
While announcing the plan to apply for the new funding, Beshear said the state will have to reconfigure its “ancient” unemployment system to manage the new claims and payments. His administration has been criticized during the pandemic for being slow to process claims.
Beshear said the state intends to continue providing additional unemployment, but it depends on what funding the federal government provides.
He announced 655 new cases Wednesday, 91 of which were in children under the age of 18. The new cases pushed Kentucky’s total case count to nearly 41,000.
The governor also said the deaths expected as a result of a COVID-19 spike a few weeks ago are here. He reported 12 new deaths related to the disease for the second day in a row. Kentucky’s death toll related to COVID-19 is now 842.
He displayed a photo of the Capitol building lit up in green to mark another day of COVID-related deaths.
“I can only really remember two or three days, going back to the middle of April, maybe even early April, that this wasn’t green,” he said.
Beshear said the longer Kentucky continues to see high weekly case counts, the more deaths there will be. He reiterated his call for people to wear masks and take other personal measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.