Gov. Andy Beshear

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Despite growing pressure from Republicans and business leaders, Gov. Andy Beshear said he is not going to cut Kentucky’s unemployment benefits — at least not yet.

Beshear called Kentucky’s labor shortage a “complicated problem” caused by a perfect storm of factors, including the rapid pace of the recovery, continuing child-care issues and lingering COVID-19 concerns. But he admitted the extra $300 a week in unemployment benefits is part of the reason for so many “help wanted” signs.

“I do believe that there are some people that aren't coming back to the workforce because of the level of benefits that are out there,” he said.

But Beshear said he is not going to cut off those benefits just yet.

“I think the right thing to do here is the carrot not the stick," he said.

As WDRB News first reported Wednesday, Beshear is planning to offer a back-to-work bonus to those receiving pandemic unemployment benefits before he slashes their checks.

“A first and perhaps better step than to prematurely terminating those is to provide a back to work bonus or incentive,” Beshear said. “We are working on that program now.”

Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said he is “not a big fan” of the governor’s plan.

“They shouldn't have to be paid an incentive from the government to go back to work,” Thayer said. “The best incentive to get people back to work is not pay the $300-a-week supplement.”

Thayer said some businesses cannot even open at full capacity because they do not have enough workers. But Beshear believes the enhanced unemployment benefit is contributing to the state’s economic recovery.

“The extra $300 puts $34 million in our economy every week,” Beshear said. “And where is that going? It’s going into groceries. It’s going into retail. It’s going into restaurants.”

The governor said he is trying to “thread the needle” when it comes to returning Kentuckians to the workforce.

“It’s trying to devise the way that we can get a large portion that can return to work to return to work while keeping that necessary safety net for those that need just a little bit more time," he said.

Beshear said he will likely announce details of the bonus program next week.

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