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Beshear: Early End To Pandemic Jobless Benefits Possible, But Still Too Soon

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says his administration hasn’t ruled out ending an extra $300-a-week federal unemployment program before it expires in September, but for now it’s still too risky.

Beshear, a Democrat, maintains that axing the enhanced benefits today would send a “shock" through a still-recovering system.

"It would remove $34 million dollars a week that's going to some of the sectors of our economy hit hardest in COVID," he said Thursday when pressed on increasingly frequent calls to halt the relief. 

While eager to tout signs of a rebounding economy in the state, the governor says taking away the benefits too quickly would hurt residents who are still getting on their feet. Instead, he suggests, "a first and perhaps better step" in the form of a "back to work bonus or incentive."

As for when that financial motivator could materialize, the governor hinted at a possible announcement this time next week, though the dollars would take a while longer to get into workers' pockets. In the meantime, critics contend the $300 payments are a key factor slowing hiring in the commonwealth.

“What I hear from business people, hospitals, educators, everybody across the state... is regretfully, it’s actually more lucrative for many Kentuckians and Americans to not work than work," Sen. Mitch McConnell said recently. 

Louisiana became the first Democratic-led state to suspend the extra federal assistance option this week, according to The Hill.

Beshear was asked about payments during the first of his planned “Team Kentucky” updates Thursday, a weekly press conference similar to his once-daily COVID-19 briefings. 

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.