Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared proudly: “We are the firewall against Nancy Pelosi’s agenda” in a pre-recorded video for Thursday night’s Republican National Convention (RNC). McConnell didn’t want to appear on Donald Trump’s stage, though he had no problem lying like Trump. Particularly with this line: “They want to tell you when you can go to work. When your kids can go to school. They want to tax your job out of existence, and then send you a government check for unemployment.”
Right now there are 72,000 people in Kentucky who still haven’t gotten an unemployment insurance check from claims filed in March. Five months ago. Because Kentucky’s system is a disaster. Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, inherited a labor department that had been starved and severely cut back by the previous Republican administration. The unemployment office was cut by $16 million between 2010 and 2018, and 95 personnel removed. One of the Pelosi agenda items on the coronavirus that McConnell stood as a firewall against? Funding to states to beef up their coronavirus response infrastructure. Like for a timely response to unemployment claims.
Beshear has tried. He used some of the CARES Act funding the state received to contract with Ernst & Young last month to add 300 of their people to help process claims. But he still has 20-year-old technology and limited resources. The state only had a 3.5-week contract with Ernst & Young, and had to add another two weeks to the contract to run through the end of August. That will give the maxed out state employees the ability to get letters out, a step that federal rules require be done by state employees. Beshear is having to pull employees in from other departments for that.
It’s been five months. Auto mechanic Richard Whitely lost his job at a car lot and got one benefit check in April. One. Despite filing every two weeks for benefits as the state requires. He sold his tools. He and his wife pawned their wedding bands for $250. “It’s broken me down as a man,” he said late last week. “It makes me feel like I can’t provide for my family. No man should feel like that.” He finally got his money this week. Richard Geis, 24, still has no idea whether the claim he filed in March is going to be paid. He filed every two weeks for two months but never heard anything and gave up. He’s been back part-time at his heating, ventilation, and air conditioning job in Louisville since June, but fell far behind on bills and has rising credit card debt. “I desperately need some kind of financial help to stay afloat,” he said.
All of this in large part because McConnell insists on being the firewall preventing his own constituents from getting the help they need from Congress. He’s been sitting on that assistance, provided in the House-passed HEROES Act, since the middle of May. McConnell is actually proud of that. He’s proud to keep his state and his own fellow Kentuckians in poverty, while he delivers for the Chamber of Commerce and corporate America.
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