- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky has applied for another round of supplemental unemployment payments for tens of thousands of people who lost work during the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday.

The Democratic governor said his administration is seeking federal approval to distribute the extra $400 in weekly jobless benefits for an additional three weeks.

If the request wins approval, he said, qualified Kentuckians would receive the additional benefits for the weeks of Aug. 22, Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 as the economy struggles to recover from the pandemic.

“We want to do that to help our people get through it,” Beshear told reporters. “And we’ve also seen that these dollars cycle through our economy. … It’s truly helping to make sure that this recession can hopefully be short term and that we can really bounce back.”

The supplemental payments for Kentucky were approved initially for the three weeks prior to Aug. 22. More than 100,000 Kentuckians qualified for those extra payments, the governor’s office said Monday.

Under the program authorized by President Donald Trump, no extra state money is required for the first $300 in extra weekly assistance for each recipient. To get the full $400 available for the unemployed, Kentucky dips into its federal coronavirus relief aid to make up the difference.

Kentucky remains in “a place that we can do it” financially, Beshear said Monday. Beshear has said he opted for the full amount because that extra $100 is “critically important” for recipients.

Recipients still receive their regular state unemployment benefits.

Kentucky won swift federal approval after its initial request in August for the extra jobless aid.

The unemployed had received $600 a week in federal pandemic aid until the assistance expired Aug 1. Congress has been unable to agree on an extension amid an impasse on a new round of coronavirus relief.

In another move, the state is easing some restrictions on visitations at nursing homes.

Under the change, a long-term care facility will have to go 14 days without a new coronavirus case before allowing visitors, said state Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander. The standard has been that a facility be free of a new virus case for 28 days.

Meanwhile, Beshear reported 406 new coronavirus cases statewide and one more virus-related death Monday. Reports of virus cases are typically lower on Mondays because many labs are closed on Sundays. Total virus cases have surpassed 61,910 in Kentucky since the pandemic began. The state’s virus-related death toll is at least 1,112.

Kentucky’s positivity rate - a rolling figure reflecting the average number of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 - was 3.77%, continuing a recent trend in which it has been below 4%.

Keeping the positivity rate moving downward will be a challenge as social interactions increase with the resumption of in-person classes at schools later this month and with sports and other activities, Beshear said. He reinforced the importance of following health guidelines to contain the virus.

“Are we going to wear our mask because we want to do these extra things?” the governor said. “Are we going to stay 6 feet apart?”

Last week, Kentucky had its second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in a single week since the outbreak began, Beshear said.

“They’re too high,” he said. “And we’ve got to do what it takes to have fewer new weekly cases.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.


Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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