Price We Paid CNN

Cory Smith is among a number of Kentuckians featured in CNN's “The Price We Paid: The Economic Cost of COVID" set to air March 27, 2021. The special focuses on Kentucky's problems administering unemployment insurance.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky’s struggle to administer unemployment insurance is the focus of a CNN special airing 9 p.m. Saturday, March 27.

The cable network spent weeks in the Bluegrass State in February and March interviewing people struggling to make ends meet, as well as current and former public officials.

“The Price We Paid: The Economic Cost of COVID,” featuring correspondent Ed Lavandera, contains the last known interview with former Kentucky unemployment director Muncie McNamara, who died March 7 at age 38.

“I knew that this was going to be the most important thing I’d ever do with my life,” McNamara told CNN.

The special also features footage from WDRB, a CNN affiliate, and contributions by WDRB reporters Gilbert Corsey and Chris Otts.

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A year after the pandemic began, Kentucky is still working through backlogged unemployment claims and experiencing other problems, such as what officials have called a “massive” amount of fraudulent claims.

Gov. Andy Beshear plans to reopen some state employment offices April 15 for in-person service for the first time since the pandemic began. The state is also standing up a new call center and has rolled out a redesigned user interface for its website.

But Beshear also regularly points to challenges that predate his term as governor: the back-end technology for the unemployment system remains “antiquated” and the state employment office lacks about 95 people whose jobs were eliminated under the administration of former Gov. Matt Bevin.

Beshear has proposed rebuilding the unemployment system’s technology and has solicited contractors for the job, but it could take years before the new system is in place. He has proposed reinstating the jobs that were eliminated under the prior administration.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.