LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – About 400,000 emails sent through Kentucky’s unemployment insurance assistance link between March 19 and May 10 remained unread and were archived by Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration as of Nov. 9, according to state Auditor Mike Harmon’s office.
“These emails from claimants could include indications of issues or problems for (the Office of Unemployment Insurance) to address, not to mention general questions from unemployed Kentuckians,” Harmon’s office said in a report released Tuesday.
The finding regarding the unread emails is among a number of deficiencies related to Beshear’s handling of unemployment insurance that Harmon’s office documents in an annual financial report related for fiscal year ended June 30, 2020.
“400,000 unread emails is unacceptable, but that doesn’t mean there were 400,000 Kentuckians who didn’t get through. Our numbers are much lower than that,” Beshear said at his briefing on Tuesday. Asked to clarify, Beshear said frustrated people may have sent multiple emails.
The rest of Harmon’s report, Beshear said, treads over issues that the administration has already acknowledged and has corrected or is working to correct.
He said Kentucky is in “compliance” with the federal Department of Labor on unemployment insurance issues despite the previous violations of law that Harmon alleges in the report.
Harmon’s office says in the written findings that Kentucky’s Office of Unemployment Insurance (OUI) made mistakes and violated federal law in a rush to handle the influx of jobless claims as the pandemic restrictions took hold in March and April.
“The external pressure of the pandemic incentivized OUI management to override important system controls,” Harmon’s office says in the report.
The state improperly backdated unemployment claims early in the pandemic, paying claimants for weeks in which they were not unemployed. And for eight weeks, the state decided not to ask people to submit weekly wage information to determine their eligibility for benefits, instead setting claims to “auto pay,” resulting in overpayments that the state may be required to collect later, Harmon’s office found.
“Seasoned OUI and Commonwealth Office of Technology (COT) staff expressed concerns about implementing Auto-Pay, but it was implemented in spite of those concerns,” according to the report.
Using a sample of 37 state employees, Harmon’s office documented that Kentucky paid unemployment benefits to people who were fully employed because of the improper “auto pay” policy.
Sixteen of the state employees were paid unemployment benefits for the loss of part-time work, but they shouldn’t have been eligible because they remained employed fulltime by the state. They also received the $600-per-week federal enhancement to unemployment benefits that ran from March through…
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