How to Apply for Unemployment in Kentucky

by Kailey Hagen | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on March 31, 2020

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The Kentucky state flag flying in front of a sunny sky.

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Kentucky workers should apply for unemployment if they cannot work due to COVID-19.

Kentucky workers should apply for unemployment if they cannot work due to COVID-19.

Kentucky businesses are doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by shutting down until the crisis has passed, but this creates a new problem for the thousands of workers currently out of a job. You might be wondering how you'll get through the next few months without a paycheck. Unemployment can -- and should -- be part of that plan, if you qualify.

Here's how to determine if you're able to claim unemployment benefits, and if so, how much you might get.

Do I qualify for unemployment benefits?

Kentucky residents must meet the following requirements to claim unemployment benefits:

  1. You've lost your income or had your hours drastically reduced through no fault of your own.
  2. You must be willing to work and actively seeking work (see note below).
  3. Your past earnings must meet certain standards.

Kentucky has waived the work-search requirement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also taken the unprecedented step of opening unemployment benefits to independent contractors and self-employed workers, who are normally not eligible.

The state evaluates your earnings during a base period -- the first four of the last five completed quarters before you applied for unemployment. The base period for those who apply in March is October 2018 to September 2019. For those who apply in April, it's January to December 2019. 

Your wages during the base period must check all these boxes to qualify:

  1. You must have earned at least $1,500 in one quarter.
  2. You must have earned at least $1,500 total, across the other three quarters.
  3. Your total base period earnings must be at least 1.5 times your earnings in your highest-earning quarter.
  4. Your total wages in your final two quarters must be at least $312 to meet the requirement that your earnings in those quarters be at least eight times the minimum weekly benefit amount. 

How do I apply for unemployment benefits?

You can apply for unemployment on the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance website. You'll need:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your mailing address
  • The names, addresses, and phone numbers of all your employers during the past 18 months
  • The first and last days you worked with all of your employers during the past 18 months
  • Bank account details for direct deposit

Due to unusually high demand caused by COVID-19 layoffs, Kentucky is requesting workers apply for unemployment and file their biweekly unemployment claims on a certain day of the week. As of March 30, 2020, here's when you should file based on the first letter of your last name:

Day of the Week First Letter of Last Name
Sunday A-D
Monday E-H
Tuesday I-L
Wednesday M-P
Thursday Q-U
Friday V-Z
Friday If you missed your day

Source: Kentucky Career Center.

After you create your account, you must file claims every other week to receive your benefits. There's usually a one-week waiting period, but it's waived during the pandemic.

How much money will I receive in unemployment benefits?

You could receive anywhere from $39 per week to $552 per week in state unemployment benefits. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), passed in late March, will add $600 per week in federally funded unemployment benefits to that number through July 2020. Your weekly state benefit amount (WBA) is 1.1923% of your total base period earnings. Here's a calculator to help you figure out how much you can expect.

How long can I collect unemployment benefits?

Your maximum benefit amount is the lesser of:

  • 26 times your WBA, or
  • One-third of your base period earnings

No matter what, you will get at least 15 weeks of benefits, assuming you don't find new employment that makes you ineligible for unemployment. The CARES Act currently extends that by 13 weeks. 

What if my unemployment claim is denied?

You can file an appeal in writing if your unemployment claim is denied. Your appeal must be postmarked within 15 days of the mail date on your denial.

Unemployment benefits won't solve everything, but it can make the coming months a little easier. Apply on your appointed day this week if you believe you qualify.

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