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Unemployed Kentucky residents descend on capital, demand help after months of waiting for benefits

Andrew Cuomo

Kentucky has temporarily reopened in-person unemployment services to help with the state’s backlog of jobless claims, state officials tell CNN.

The assistance comes after protests in Frankfort, the state capital, by unemployed residents who say they have not received benefits since being laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Deborah McLaughlin, who has been unemployed since April, says she showed up in Frankfort for three days in a row before her case was resolved.

Courtney See recently waited 10 hours to receive unemployment assistance before being told the offices would close for the day.

“Everyone started screaming,” See said. “I didn’t know what to do but I knew if I was the loudest, I would be heard.”

See returned the next morning after being told by a fellow claimant that she would be given priority help, and her case was resolved withing 10 minutes, she told CNN.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Kentucky has received more than 900,000 unemployment claims, according to the state’s Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

“The Office of Unemployment Insurance (OUI) has processed more than 90% of eligible claims and paid over $2.5 billion to Kentuckians,” JT Henderson, executive director of communications at the cabinet, told CNN via email.

Henderson says there are 7,300 claims from March, 26,000 from April and 17,000 from May that have not been processed.

“No one in state government will be happy until all Kentuckians have received the benefits for which they qualify,” Henderson said.

Janaya Bani Irsheid lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, but worked in Kentucky until she was laid off in March due to the pandemic. She quickly applied for unemployment insurance. And for three days she drove nearly two hours to Frankfort to seek unemployment assistance.

Nearly three months later, and after three days of protesting and waiting in line, Bani Irsheid is scheduled to receive her benefits next week, she tells CNN.

“I have had to borrow money, I have had to take out loans I have not been able to pay back,” Bani Irsheid said.

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