After numerous cases of fraud and having the integrity of the office questioned at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday announced initiatives to improve the delivery of unemployment insurance (UI) in Kentucky moving forward.
The governor’s plans include a complete overhaul of the existing UI system, a new identification process that would help weed out fraudulent claims, and an ask to the Kentucky General Assembly to fund permanent staff for the Office of Unemployment Insurance in the next biennial budget.
“You are going to see me once again propose funding for sufficient staff,” Beshear said. “We do not have enough people who can work the claims, and we’ve lost people who can work the claims.”
The final initiative put forth by the governor was a move to merge the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet with the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, which he said would make it easier for the state to compete for grant funding and also improve access to accurate information.
“This will allow us to put offices that do similar things – apprenticeships and others – close to other offices that do the same,” Beshear said. “We want to make sure we are not duplicating efforts and give us an overall better result.”
Current Labor Cabinet Secretary Jamie Link will head the newly merged cabinet, with Interim Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Mary Pat Regan and current Labor Cabinet Deputy Secretary Vickie Wise both serving as deputy secretaries under Link.
Beshear said that while restructuring of the cabinets has already begun, the merger will require approval by the legislature, which is scheduled to convene its annual session on January 4, 2022.