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Gov. Beshear: Ky. will not follow other states opting out of federal government’s enhanced UI benefits

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – As the state continues to lift COVID-19 restrictions, it seems staffing shortages at local businesses aren’t going anywhere.

That’s what we’ve heard from several business owners over the last few weeks.

“It’s difficult at this time to hire, retain, and keep good employees,” J. Render’s Southern Table and Bar Owner Gwyn Everly said.

“I know every industry has been hurt the last 14 months, but I know the restaurant industry is definitely hurting, we’re still hurting.” Shamrock’s Owner Steve Reed said. “We’re understaffed, and we’re trying the best we can. You’re seeing owners cooking, you’re seeing owners waiting tables right now.”

Even well-known restaurant owner and chef Ouita Michel has been pulling doubles to keep up with the increase in customers.

“Things are picking up, people are starting to go out and things like that and so right now we’re in a crunch because the business is picking up but we don’t have the employees to really do the amount of business that we’re starting to get,” Everly said.

With thousands of job openings, some leaders are pushing for Kentucky to follow states like Tennessee, Ohio, Alabama, and Mississippi that plan to opt out early of the extra $300 a week from the federal government’s enhanced unemployment benefit plan.

“I think we have to look at whether this additional unemployment assistance is encouraging people to continue to receive this benefit and not return to work,” Representative Russell Webber said.

But, in his press conference Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear said right now cutting ties with that program may cause more harm than good.

“I don’t think it’s an exact science, but I think it would be premature to terminate them now,” Gov. Beshear said. “We need to be engaged in other efforts at getting people back to work as well.”

Gov. Beshear did say he would consider ending those extra benefits before the federal government’s plan is set to expire this fall.

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