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McConnell Urges Beshear To Apply For Trump Unemployment Benefit

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that if Kentucky doesn’t want to pay for a portion of a new unemployment benefit ordered by President Donald Trump, out-of-work Kentuckians can receive a smaller benefit.

After Congress failed to pass a new coronavirus relief bill, Trump issued an executive order earlier this month that would provide a $400 per week supplement to unemployment benefits as long as states pay 25% of the total cost.

The measure was considered unworkable by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, who said last week that the state wouldn’t be able to afford its share.

But now in a letter sent to Beshear on Monday, McConnell says that even if states don’t chip in, unemployed people would be able to receive $300 per week supplement to their benefits.

“Kentucky must not be left behind,” McConnell wrote. “I am writing to urge your administration to immediately begin this process for our Commonwealth.”

Trump issued the executive order dealing with unemployment benefits earlier this month after negotiations over a new coronavirus package broke down and a $600 per week unemployment supplement expired at the end of July.

During a news conference on Monday, Beshear said he and other governors weren’t aware of this new interpretation of Trump’s order.

“There is a communication issue out there about not only the existence of it, but also the rules that go along with it,” Beshear said.

But Beshear said he would consider the new version of the benefits.

“If the federal government is going to provide $300 and it doesn’t provide an unworkable situation for the state, yeah we’re going to take it. We’re going to get it out there to the people who need it," Beshear said.

In his letter to Beshear, McConnell also advised that Kentucky could use money it received from the CARES Act to pay for the additional benefit, bringing the total unemployment supplement to $400 per week.

So far, seven states have been approved for the new unemployment supplement, including Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri and Utah.

The new unemployment supplement comes after months of uncertainty for how the system would continue to operate during the pandemic.

Back in May, the U.S. House passed a bill extending the $600 per week supplement until the end of the year.

Afterward, McConnell unveiled a bill in late July that would have provided a $200 per week supplement, but it never got enough support to pass.

The leaders of Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature urged Beshear to apply for the new benefit on Monday.

House Speaker David Osborne accused Beshear of not embracing the program for political reasons.

“We appreciate Leader McConnell’s continued efforts to help Kentuckians struggling with unemployment related to COVID, particularly as the Governor’s dismissal of this opportunity screams of the politics that he claims to reject,” Osborne wrote.