LUDLOW, Ky. — Scott Holscher has been trying to get unemployment benefits for months.
“Financially, it has pretty much drained us at this point,” Holscher said.
Holscher works for a heating and air company, going into people’s homes to do maintenance work.
When coronavirus cases started rising late last year, the concern he had for his wife also grew because she has a respiratory illness.
Holscher said his direct supervisor also caught the coronavirus around that time.
“He recovered OK, thankfully, but with my wife’s condition, she wouldn’t,” Holscher said.
Holscher requested a voluntary layoff to go into quarantine to protect his wife in November, under the impression he would receive unemployment benefits.
“We don’t want to take that chance,” Holscher said. “We don’t want to lose someone because we were too stupid or too scared to make a decision to protect that person.”
“Holscher’s son, Zack Bryant, worked at the same company and also took a voluntary layoff.
“Stimulus packages have helped with the bills, but other than that, we’ve just been sitting in limbo,” Bryant said.
Neither man has received any benefits despite being told they qualified.
The online application just says their claims are under investigation, and they haven’t been able to get ahold of anyone at the unemployment office.
Holscher said they need the money because they have an electric bill that’s long overdue, and they’re days away from facing eviction.
“More than anything, I just want to get my bills paid,” Holscher said.
They’re not alone, either.
There are 102,056 unresolved unemployment claims according to the latest data from the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, including 610 from March and 6,929 from April.
Around 58,000 of those claims have been flagged for a possible fraud or identity issue.
“I think you’re going to see us be able to clear a number of fraudulent claims out of our backlog,” Gov. Andy Beshear said last week. “That will help us better focus on those real claims.”
Holscher said his wife, who was receiving benefits through the pandemic unemployment assistance program, stopped receiving money after the program changed in late December.
She was told by the application website the problem was due to an identity issue, and Holscher said she tried to rectify it by sending in documents the state requested.
They still haven’t received an answer.
“Her’s baffles me because she had a previous claim,” Holscher said. “So why, all of a sudden, on the new claim is her identity an issue? We did upload everything they asked for but it still just sits there.”
Beshear said several issues have plagued the unemployment system during the pandemic, including staff cuts under the previous governor and an old computer system.
“And to everybody out there that’s still struggling to get your dollars: we’re working really hard,” Beshear said. “You shouldn’t have had to go through this. We should have done better.”
Holscher just wants the problems fixed.
“In my business, if I go into someone’s house and there’s a problem and I say, yeah, there’s a problem, but then I don’t do anything to fix it, they’re going to call somebody else,” Holscher said. “In my situation, I can’t call anybody else, I have the people that are in place who are supposed to be taking care of this. Fix the problem. Don’t give me excuses. Don’t give me the same excuses over and over again: an antiquated system, not enough people. Well then, fix the problem. You’ve had it a year, fix it already.”
Kevin Kinnaird, a spokesman for the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, said no one from the unemployment office was available to discuss this story Monday. He said Amy Cubbage, lead attorney for the governor’s office, is typically scheduled to give unemployment updates during the governor’s 4 p.m. press conference on Thursdays.