LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration plans to reduce the number of state offices that can handle unemployment insurance claims from 51 to 20 in a reorganization that will take effect Feb. 15.

The plan, announced within the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet on Tuesday, will consolidate Kentucky Office of Employment and Training employees into 12 regional hubs and eight other satellite offices.

State officials said it’s too soon to say whether the 31 offices losing Office of Employment and Training staff will remain open, saying those decisions will be left up to the state’s ten regional Workforce Development Boards.

The state employment office at 600 W Cedar Street in downtown Louisville will become one of the regional hubs, but three other local offices face an uncertain future because they will lose staff.

Those offices are at 6201 Preston Highway in Okolona; 505 Buffalo Run Road in Shepherdsville; and 88 Brunerstown Road in Shelbyville.

The reorganization will affect 95 employees who will be offered other jobs within state government paying at least as much as their current positions within the Office of Employment and Training.

Hal Heiner, secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, said in an interview that the state is “faced with a red-ink situation” with the federal funding source – the Wagner-Peyser Act – that pays for staff in the employment offices.

He said the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear hired several permanent, full-time employees in the aftermath of 2008 recession by using federal stimulus money that is no longer available.

While the offices known as “Kentucky Career Centers” other services – like job coaching – about 70 percent their visits pertain to unemployment insurance benefits, Heiner said.

He said his cabinet will “very soon” introduce technological improvements that will make it easier for people to deal with unemployment benefits over the phone or online at home or in a public library.

“We’re looking to see, ‘How can we, through technology, take care of the routine items and focus the career centers on careers… we’re hoping the (unemployment) benefits side won’t be a career center activity,” he said.

Heiner added that there’s “less demand” for unemployment benefits now that Kentucky’s unemployment rate is 4.8 percent and the federal government no longer pays for extended benefits. In aftermath of the recession, laid off workers could get up to 99 weeks of benefits through federally funded extensions.

According to information from the cabinet, the 12 regional hubs will be in Bowling Green, Covington, Elizabethtown, Hazard, Hopkinsville, Lexington, Louisville, Morehead, Owensboro, Paducah, Prestonsburg and Somerset. The satellite offices will be in are Fort Knox, Mount Sterling, Whitesburg, McKee, Manchester, Jackson, Monticello and Albany.

Those offices losing staff are: Ashland, Bardstown, Campbellsville, Carrollton, Central City, Columbia, Corbin, Danville, Florence, Frankfort, Georgetown, Glasgow, Harlan, Henderson, Lebanon, Leitchfield, Liberty, Louisville (Preston Highway), Madisonville (2 locations), Mayfield, Maysville, Middlesboro, Murray, Pikeville, Richmond, Russell Springs, Shelbyville, Shepherdsville, Springfield and Winchester.

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