Many unemployed Hopkins County workers will need to put down their phones for a while this weekend and, instead, head for the web.
The rules for filing most jobless claims in Kentucky change Sunday. The toll-free phone line for what the commonwealth calls the "Voice Response Unit" will stop accepting benefit requests.
But the executive director of the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance said Friday there are some exceptions.
"Those individuals with a definite return-to-work date or have connections to a hiring hall, are exempt," Katie Houghlin said. She indicated that's because the phone option is required by state law.
Houghlin said the move to internet-only filing is "not a huge change. It's not terribly different."
In fact, she calls the shift away from phone reporting more convenient for jobless workers.
"They don't have to keep records periodically," Houghlin said.
One requirement had workers keep score on their job searches for six weeks.
"Some people found six weeks hard to keep up," she said.
Data released by the Unemployment Insurance office Friday shows 39% of all benefit claims currently are submitted by phone.
"But only a subset of that will experience a change," Houghlin said. When the exceptions
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are included, the number of unemployed people required to switch to the web is 23.4%.
Houghlin recommended that workers with no home internet access either visit public libraries or use computers at the Kentucky Career Center located at 755 Industrial Road. Molly Deahl, with the Madisonville office, said Friday that her staff sees between 15-20 people each week who need help with job searches and resumes.
Houghlin said online claims also can be filed at public libraries by visiting kcc.ky.gov.
But using those options could mean a delay in benefits for Hopkins County workers. The unemployment filing week normally opens at midday Sunday. The Career Center office is closed until 8 a.m. Monday, while the Hopkins County-Madisonville Public Library doesn't reopen until Tuesday morning.
Questions about the filing changes can be answered by phone during the week at 502-564-2900.
The Kentucky Center for Statistics reported Hopkins County had a 4.2% unemployment rate in August. It counted 802 workers without jobs.