FRANKFORT, Ky. — Early on in the pandemic, Gov. Andy Beshear told people who quarantined voluntarily to file for unemployment, citing guidance from the federal government.

Some applied for and received benefits, but months later, they were told they didn’t actually qualify and had to pay those benefits back. 

Senate Bill 7 provides a waiver for those people so they won’t have to.

“We shouldn’t be here today. We shouldn’t have to be addressing this,” said Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg), the sponsor of Senate Bill 7. “This shouldn’t be something we’re spending time on. This issue should not exist.”

Earlier this year, the governor’s office said a legislative solution was needed after the Trump Administration denied their request for a waiver.

Givens said SB7 is that legislative fix, but it won’t solve everything with unemployment.

“This bill can’t fix an administration that can’t handle the task,” Givens said.

Debate on the floor devolved into lawmakers venting frustration with how the governor’s office has handled unemployment.

“How can we get to the point that we’re even helping people when we can’t even answer the phone?” Sen. Danny Carrol (R-Benton) said.

Several lawmakers discussed hearing from constituents who haven’t heard anything from the unemployment office regarding their unresolved claims, despite waiting months for answers.

“I’d be okay if you didn’t talk to us and answer our questions if you just answered our people’s questions,” said Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Crofton)

Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) said it’s not fair to pin everything on the governor because the unemployment office was gutted before he took over.

“We say on the floor today that we can’t fix what they have broken,” McGarvey said. “Who is they?”

He also pressed the Republican majority to pass more funding for the unemployment office to hire more people and open more offices.

“Or we can yell and scream about answering the phone,” McGarvey said.

Senate Bill 7 now heads to the House after passing in the Senate unanimously. Lawmakers say it won’t be the last discussion on unemployment they have this session.