KY unemployment screen grab

Kentucky is forcing all unemployment claimants to reregister their accounts using new, 8-digit PINs provided by mail or over the phone.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky rebooted its unemployment insurance system on Tuesday after a four-day shutdown Gov. Andy Beshear said was necessary to prevent fraudsters from accessing hundreds of thousands of accounts.

Some unemployment recipients had an easy time using the state’s call center to get a new personal identification number (PIN), but others were unable to get through.

At several points Tuesday afternoon, the state’s 502-564-2900 hotline dedicated to the issue was telling people call volume was too high and hanging up on them.

"I have called there in excess of 12 times today and when I hit '1' it just says all their agents are busy, call back later and then it hangs up," said Brian Hollingsworth, a grocery worker from Ludlow, Kentucky, in an email. "I believe they need more people. They won’t even put you on hold."

Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday the state would have 50 to 150 people answering phones, depending on the time of day, starting Tuesday for 10 days to help unemployment recipients access their accounts.

All unemployment recipients have to reregister their accounts with a new, 8-digit PIN, a move prompted by fraudsters gaining access to about 300,000 active and inactive accounts by guessing unsophisticated 4-digit PINs such as '1234,' Beshear and his general counsel, Amy Cubbage, said Thursday.

The state last week mailed letters containing a new, 8-digit PIN to all accountholders. Cubbage said Thursday she would guess than “less than 25,000” people have active unemployment accounts in Kentucky, but state figures show there were more than 90,000 claims with some sort of stop on payment as of the end of January.

Claimants like Hollingsworth were confused Tuesday morning when the call center line displayed a recording suggesting that only people who had already received PIN letters last week could get help on the phone line with accessing their accounts.

After WDRB asked state officials about that in an email around noon, the recording was changed about an hour later, indicating that claimants need nothave received the PIN letter to be able to reset their PINs by phone.

"Claimants can call in to get a new PIN even if they have not received the letter," Holly Neal, of the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, said later in an email.

Hollingsworth said he has been struggling to get his claim paid since November 2020.

"The honest people are the ones who are suffering from this," he said.

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