Kentucky Unemployment Benefits and COVID-19

As the spread of COVID-19 forces limited services at restaurants and bars across the Commonwealth, Abney Law Office wishes to express our support for our service industry friends and neighbors during this difficult time. For those that have been laid off from work and find themselves worried about making ends meet, consider filing for unemployment benefits. Below, we have provided a quick primer about the unemployment process for Kentucky residents.*

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Persons who may be eligible can apply online at the Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Claims System or over the phone (502-875-0442). (An application for Spanish speakers is available by phone.)

You will need to provide:

  1. A social security number;
  2. A complete mailing address;
  3. The name, address, and telephone number of each employer over the last 18 months;
  4. The day you began work at each job;
  5. The last day you worked at each job; and
  6. Wages earned from each job.

In order to be eligible for benefits, you must (1) meet a minimum amount in wages (discussed below); (2) be unemployed through no fault of the claimant (i.e layoffs due to a state of emergency); (3) be able and available to work. This applies to anyone who lost their job, has had work hours reduced, or has been furloughed.

The monetary qualifications for unemployment appear daunting on paper, but are typically a low bar to meet for a person who has worked regularly throughout the last eighteen months. Remember, tips must be included in the reported income! Ultimately, the agency is responsible for doing the necessary calculations of your income, while you are simply responsible for providing all the necessary information. If you are unsure whether you have earned enough wages leading up to the loss of employment to qualify for unemployment benefits, go ahead and contact the unemployment commission and file a claim — the commission will determine if you have earned enough base wages to qualify.

Income will be examined for a specific period of time, called a “base period,” determined based on the date of the application for unemployment. Claims made before March 31, 2020 will utilize a base period of October 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019. Claims made between April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020 will utilize a base period of January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019. That base period is then divided up equally into four quarters, three months per quarter.

You are monetarily eligible for unemployment benefits if you (1) earned at least $750 in one base period quarter; (2) earned a minimum $750 total outside the base period quarter in which you earned the most; (3) earned total wages for all quarters is at least 1 ½ times the wages in the highest quarter; and (4) the earned wages of the last two quarters must be at least eight times the weekly benefit rate.

Although Governor Beshear has waived the typical one-week waiting period for receiving benefits during the state of emergency, the application and approval process still takes some time to complete. Given the number of workers in Kentucky being impacted by COVID-19, it is very possible that the approval process will be slower than normal. So, if you lost employment you should begin the application process now. The sooner the application, the sooner the payments can begin.

The amount of benefits received varies based on the base period income, and will be between $39 and $415 per week, for a maximum of 26 weeks. The weekly benefit amount is determined at a rate of 1.1923% of the total income during the base pay period. The maximum benefits a person can receive from unemployment are calculated using the smaller amount of either (1) ⅓ the base period wages or (2) the weekly benefit amount x 26. For example, if an applicant earned $10,000 during her base period, the maximum benefit amount would be calculated as follows:

  • $10,000 total base period wages x 1.1923% = $192 weekly benefit amount (rounded to the nearest dollar)
  • $192 weekly benefit amount x 26 weeks = $4,992
  • $10,000 total base period wages / 3 = $3,333

Since ⅓ of the person’s total base period wages is the lesser amount of the two calculations, $3,333 would be this person’s maximum benefits received from this unemployment claim.

Importantly, if you receive benefits, you must report any income you earn while on unemployment, including tips and side-hustles. Benefits will be reduced by a rate of 80% of the wages earned while receiving benefits. Failing to report income earned while receiving unemployment benefits can lead to harsh penalties, including felony criminal charges. Finally, during the state of emergency, Governor Beshear has temporarily removed the work-search requirement for maintaining benefits.

If you think you have been wrongly denied unemployment benefits, reach out to an employment attorney for help. You only have a very short time to appeal the agency’s denial of your benefits.

Our hearts go out to everyone affected by COVID-19. Over the coming weeks, it is imperative that the community comes together to support not only those that are directly impacted by the virus, but also the people, like our friends in the service industry, who will face the brunt of the economic impact brought on by the virus.

***Disclaimer: This post is made available by Abney Law Office for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law in Kentucky at the time of writing, but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries to Abney Law Office by social media or email, you confirm there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Abney Law Office. This post should not be substituted for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.***

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