I'm Jared Bennett, and I'm an investigative reporter for 89.3 WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting based in Louisville, Ky. Since the pandemic began in the spring, I've covered issues related to unemployment insurance and federal stimulus packages. I've also covered the story of how some unemployed people in Kentucky have had to pay their unemployment insurance back because of an error by the state.

Read more at these links:

Proof: https://i.redd.it/yc7620om2iy51.jpg

Thanks for the questions, everyone!

Comments: 785 • Responses: 7  • Date: 

PawnedPawn352 karma

What would probably surprise us the most about how COVID-19 has affected the economy? What surprised you the most?

WFPLNews1145 karma

The single most important thing people need to know about how COVID-19 has affected the economy is that federal aid really kept the wheels from falling off completely. Personal stimulus checks or unemployment allowed people to continue spending and keep some businesses afloat. Direct aid to state and local governments kept really harmful budget cuts at bay.

But if those expire, as they are set to on Dec. 31, we’re in for a world of hurt. For me, the most surprising thing is what appears to be a lack of urgency in getting relief to people and local governments who really need it.

louievee157 karma

I am on the COVID extended unemployment. My UI expires at the end of December. If the new administration passed a new COVID benefits package do you think it will back date to end of the presidents extra benefits? And if our benefits expire before new package are we screwed? Thx.

WFPLNews229 karma

You’ve hit the million dollar question. I don’t think anyone really knows at this point, which is truly distressing considering the estimates that say 13 million people could lose benefits in 2021. The House passed the HEROES Act that extended federal unemployment into 2021, but the Senate didn’t take that up. Senator McConnell has said the senate will take up an aid package during the next session, but hasn’t given too many details. It’s a big question mark that’s causing a lot of anxiety for people, wish I could give you a better answer!

duckduckohno144 karma

For those who have been furloughed or laid off, are they finding jobs at all? Are the jobs even close to what they were making prior to COVID?

WFPLNews211 karma

Some people were furloughed right in the beginning of the pandemic and then came back to work once guidelines were available to keep them safe or restrictions were lifted. But for the most part, finding a job is a struggle.

Technically, Kentucky’s unemployment rate has definitely decreased from April’s high of about 15 percent. We’re at about 5.7 percent now, which could suggest people are finding jobs and we’re starting to recover. But the real unemployment rate, including people who left the workforce altogether, is actually around 12 percent and nationwide there are way more people looking for work than there are job openings.

pixiedei41 karma

what are the numbers like on unemployed people with children?

WFPLNews52 karma

It’s hard to know how many unemployed people have children or dependents. Unlike safety net programs (such as SNAP and stimulus checks from the CARES Act), where your benefit amount changes if you have a family to support, unemployment insurance is based on your previous job so that’s not a data point that would be collected in this case.

That said, here in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear made unemployment benefits available to people who couldn't find child care because the facilities shut down or other reasons related to COVID-19, and the CARES Act did the same thing nationwide. So when child care centers were closed, a lot of people with children were eligible for the first time and applied.

murakamidiver37 karma

How can Louisville recover from covid/civil unrest and the perception that downtown is unsafe and filled with homeless junkies?

With the tourism business reduced to a trickle, the convention business and business travel extinguished for at least a year to come and a lame duck ineffectual mayor - how many years does it take for the downtown to recover back to 2019 economic levels?

WFPLNews52 karma

WFPL covered the future of downtown Louisville on an episode of our show, "In Conversation": https://wfpl.org/this-week-in-conversation-whats-next-for-downtown-louisville/ In terms of the COVID-19 recovery, Louisville, like nearly every other city, needs significant federal aid to prevent budget cuts. Statewide, Kentucky last 5,000 local government jobs just last month. That’s a big deal, not just because the loss of income for the worker, but also because the loss in services like public transportation, sanitation, all the things that make a downtown livable. Most experts think downtowns are in trouble until a vaccine is widely available/ adopted and even then, the public perception of those areas might shift for good.

For the second part of the question, I can’t reiterate enough how much the recovery rests on more federal aid. There’s only so much local governments can do without some kind of help shoring up their budgets and preventing major service cuts. I’ve spoke to a lot of experts who say, even with a vaccine, people’s consumption habits might permanently change and may avoid downtown.

So, to answer your question, absent federal aid a recovery would take years at best. If Congress comes through, that answer depends on things like vaccine adoption and public perception.

Prothagarus1 karma

The unemployment numbers briefing that we receive weekly has a very specific logic for how they arrive at the count. Is there another source or number you know of that gets reported that is just the total number of unemployed working aged Americans to compare against?

WFPLNews3 karma

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) has excellent statewide data that is updated every week on Thursdays.