Kentucky Politics

A coalition of Kentucky union groups organized a protest caravan on Thursday to call on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to extend the $600 per week supplement to unemployment benefits, which expired last week.

About two dozen cars, a semi truck and a mobile LED billboard circled the federal courthouse in Louisville, where McConnell has an office, honking their horns..

Part of the group organized by the AFL-CIO, Teamsters and other union groups eventually headed to McConnell’s neighborhood in the Highlands to protest, though he was still in Washington negotiating the latest coronavirus relief bill.

Latrice Wilson says she was laid off from her job as a payroll supervisor in the healthcare industry.

“Receiving the $600 per week was comparable to what I was already making. It’s not like I was sitting at home and making more money, that’s not the case,” Wilson said.

Teamsters MitchRyland Barton | wfpl.org

Teamsters and other union groups called on McConnell to extend unemployment benefits.

McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, unveiled a bill last week that would provide a $200 per week unemployment supplement, another round of $1,200 checks to people who make less than $75,000 per year and legal protections for businesses reopening during the pandemic, among other things.

The bill came more than two months after the Democratic-led House passed a bill that would have extended the $600 per-week unemployment supplement, provided financial relief for state and local governments, another round of cash payments and a boost in pay for front-line workers.

But now that the unemployment supplement that Congress passed earlier this year has lapsed, laid-off sales account manager Katie Adams says, she’s worried about paying bills over the coming weeks.

“We’re all looking for jobs, we’re not lazy like people claim. Believe me, I want to get back to work in my field doing what I love,” Adams said.

Adams says that she is a registered Republican and voted for McConnell, but has soured on him because he delayed the next round of federal coronavirus help.

“Everybody thinks these are Democratic issues, but it should be nonpartisan. I challenge him to set aside all the party issues and act in a bipartisan way,” Adams said.

In May, McConnell said that Congress needed to hit the “pause button” on a new coronavirus relief package, saying he was worried about the fiscal health of the nation.

During a speech on the Senate Floor on Thursday, McConnell accused Democrats in the Senate of delaying action on extending unemployment benefits.

“Senate Republicans tried everything to prevent the lapse. That Monday, we’d rolled out a comprehensive proposal for another rescue package that would have kept extra federal benefits flowing. Democrats refused to act,” McConnell said.

Meanwhile, McConnell is running for his seventh term in the U.S. Senate and is trying to bolster his reelection chances and those of other Republicans in the chamber, which is becoming an increasingly difficult task.

A poll released Thursday from Quinnipiac University showed Democratic challenger Amy McGrath in a tight race with McConnell, trailing him by 5 percentage points. An earlier poll showed McGrath trailing McConnell by 17 points.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.