Kentucky workers still waiting on pandemic unemployment benefits

Posted at 7:11 PM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 19:31:06-04

More than a year after the beginning of statewide economic shutdowns in Kentucky and Ohio, residents in both states are still fighting to get the benefits they need to survive and care for their children.

WCPO last month interviewed Brandon Keller, who worked as a manager at a catering company in Kentucky before the pandemic hit. He said the state began denying his unemployment benefits last September, so he filed a lawsuit in small claims court.

The $1,600 claim he could file in that court -- he couldn't afford an attorney to take it further -- pales in comparison to the $14,000 in benefits he says he's owed to help shelter and feed himself and his family.

Another Kentucky worker, 66-year-old Mary Faith Colon, said she's also struggled to get ahold of anyone at the state about unemployment benefits she's owed.

Once WCPO began asking questions, they both heard back.

"[NKY Legal Aid] did apologize (for not calling him back)," Keller said. "They had some new people there that were able to help me with my case. They went ahead and they reached out to unemployment for me."

Colon had been trying to reach the labor cabinet.

"I did hear back yesterday, saying I'm looking into this," she told WCPO. "So, I really appreciate the help she's given me, if nothing else but clarity with what I could do."

For both, previous stimulus checks have helped tide them over.

"We've got enough to make it through to probably about, I think, July," Keller said. "And then we're in the same issue we ran into again."

WCPO reached out to Northern Kentucky Legal Aid and is waiting to hear back. WCPO reached out to the Kentucky unemployment office, where a spokesperson said they could not comment on pending litigation.

Ohio and Kentucky governors' offices had not returned multiple requests for comment as of Tuesday evening.

Keller's small claims court date is scheduled for April 14.