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Kentucky Unemployment – Know Your Rights

Last Verified: January 2017

In Kentucky, politicians are examining the state’s tax system for change. While some could benefit from a tax cut for low-income workers, that tax cut may be offset by removing the tax-exemption from unemployment benefits, which means that if you do receive benefits, it may be taxed at a standard rate. Those who may need to take advantage of the right to receive benefits should be familiar with the eligibility requirements and procedure to obtain benefits. This document can help you stay on top of the latest developments.

Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in KY

In general, you must be fully or partially unemployed through no fault of your own to be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. You must also:

  • Have earned enough wages to satisfy the monetary eligibility requirements
  • Be able and available to work

The Kentucky Career Center requires that while you receive unemployment benefits maintain this status over the entire benefit year. In addition, you must make a consistent and concrete effort to find work. The state will monitor your status by requiring you to file weekly claims.

Eligibility requirements explained

Some requirements to receive benefits are self-evident, like having to be unemployed. Others, like the wage-earning requirement need some additional clarification.

Able and Available

To be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, you must be physically and mentally capable of going to work. If you are too sick or injured to work, you may not be eligible for benefits.

You must be available to take any reasonable job offers. If you are a student and your class schedule prevents you from taking a job, you may not be eligible.

A reasonable job offer is often defined as one that you are trained to perform and offers pay similar to what you have received. The longer you are unemployed, the more broadly some states define a “reasonable” offer.

Lost your job through no fault of your own

If your action or decision is the cause of your separation from work, you will likely be disqualified from receiving benefits. If you voluntarily quit, your decision caused your separation from work. If your misconduct caused your employer to dismiss you, your action caused the separation.

There may be some circumstances where your action or decision caused the separation, yet you may still be eligible. These circumstances will be discussed in the “Reasons for Disqualification” section.

Monetary Eligibility and the Base Period

Kentucky law states workers must have earned a certain amount in wages during a 12-month period to be eligible. The 12-month period is called the “base period.” The base period will be the first four of the last five quarters prior to you filing your initial claim for benefits.

base period
This chart shows the base period for a monetary determination
If the effective date of your claim is: The Base Period is the Preceding
Jan 1st through March 31st October 1st through September 30
April 1st through June 30th January 1st through December 31st
July 1st through Sept 30th April 1st to March 31st
October 1st through Dec 31st July 1st to June 30th


The wages you earn during your base period must meet four requirements to constitute a valid claim.

  • You must have wages of at least $750 in one quarter
  • The wages in your base period must equal or exceed 1 and ½ times the highest earnings in one quarter
  • Your total wages outside the highest earnings quarter must equal at least $750
  • The wages in your last two quarters must be at least eight times your Weekly Benefit Rate (WBR)

If the state determines your wages do not meet the eligibility requirements, they will deny benefits based on the monetary determination. They will notify you of the determination. If you disagree, you must request a “reconsideration” through the Career Center.

Weekly Benefit Amount in KY

The weekly benefit rate is 1.1923% of your total base period wages. The minimum WBR is $39 and the maximum is $415.

Kentucky calculates your WBR by multiplying your total base period wages by 1.1923%. They round the product of the equation to find the WBR.

The maximum amount of benefits payable on a claim is one-third of the total base period wages, or 26 times the weekly benefit amount, whichever is less.

The actual amount of benefits may be affected by whether you chose to have the 10% tax rate deducted from your benefits or whether you earn any wages or other income during a benefit week.

Part-time Work and Unemployment Benefits

You may work part-time and still collect unemployment. You may also file a claim when your employer has significantly reduced your wages (through no fault of your own). However, the wages you earn will be deducted from your WBR.

The state will deduct 80% of your gross pay during the week you earned wages. If your weekly benefit is $150 and you earn $40 during a week, the state will deduct $32 (80% of $40) and issue you a check for $118.

Kentucky does not deduct severance pay and may not deduct some income from pensions. The state will make the determination as long as you accurately report income or wages when you file a weekly claim.

How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits in KY

In Kentucky, you may file a claim online or by telephone. You file online at the Unemployment Insurance Claims System. The link is only available M-F from 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM EST and Sunday from 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM EST. You cannot file a claim on Saturdays.

At the same site, you will find the telephone numbers so that you may file a claim by telephone. You can file Monday through Friday between 7:30 AM and 5:30 PM EST. This option is suitable for those without an Internet connection or who need assistance in Spanish.

You can request your bi-weekly benefit check by telephone. Call (877) 3MY-KYUI or (877) 369-5984 (toll free).

However you file your initial claim for benefits, you will need some information ready. You will need:

  • Your social security number
  • The beginning and ending date of all jobs you have held over the past 18 month
  • The correct name, address and telephone number for any job you worked over the 18 months prior to the date you filed your claim.
  • Bank routing number and account information if you plan to use Direct Deposit

You will find additional on how to file a claim online in the Unemployment handbook.

Weekly Certifications and Maintaining Eligibility

Kentucky requires eligible benefit recipients to maintain their eligibility status while they are receiving benefits. The state monitors your status by requiring a weekly certification, sometimes referred to as filing a weekly claim.

The process is similar to filing the initial claim for benefits. You will either file online or call the telephone system.

You will be asked a series of “yes or no” questions to determine whether you remain eligible for unemployment benefits. You’ll see the same questions whether you file online or by telephone.


  • Did you return to work full-time during the week you’re filing benefits for?
  • Did you do any work for which you will be paid?
  • Did you receive holiday pay, vacation pay, self-employment, National Guard pay, etc?
  • The system will ask you to enter the amount of wages and/or tips.
  • Did you quit or refuse work?
  • Were you able and available to work?
  • Were you actively seeking work?

If your answers indicate that you may not be eligible to receive benefits, you may be instructed to contact a claims representative or you may simply have your claim denied.

Work Search Requirements

Kentucky also requires benefit recipients maintain a regular job search while they are receiving a check. Not only should you be able and available for work, you must make contacts with potential employers and not refuse any reasonable job offers.

To satisfy the Kentucky law regarding the work search requirement, you must:KY Unemployment information and job searching

  • Register with Focus Career
  • Report your full work history and education
  • Respond in a timely manner to any referrals or communications from the Career Center
  • Look for work without the assistance of the Career Center
  • Accept any suitable job offer

Kentucky allows workers time to find a job that is similar in duties and salaries to previous work. However, if such work is unavailable, the state requires benefit recipients to lower expectations.

If a Career Center refers you to participate in any additional job search programs, failure to participate may mean that you are disqualified from receiving benefits.

Reasons for Denial of Benefits

In general, workers who were responsible for their separation from work will not be eligible for benefits. If you quit or you were discharged for misconduct, you will not be eligible. If you are sick and unable to work, or incapacitated and unavailable to work, you will not be eligible.

However, there are other reasons the Career Center may deny benefits.

  • Could not find adequate child care
  • You were self-employed
  • You were in school
  • You had trouble with transportation to or from work

You may think these issues should not prevent you from receiving benefits. However, the state does not consider that these issues are not out of your control. For example, the childcare burden, while difficult, is your responsibility, and not your employers. It is your responsibility to find transportation to work. If you can show that you tried to solve these issues, but could not for reasons out of your control, you may be eligible.

Quit or Discharged but Still Eligible

Quitting a job is considered solely your decision. However, your employer may have done something or failed to do something that forced you to quit. They may have forced you to work for some time without pay or made you work in unsafe conditions. This is called a “constructive discharge.” You will have to show that this was the case, and you should employ some kind of proof of the situation when you apply for benefits. You will also need to show you made efforts to address the situation. Your employer will have the opportunity to tell their side of the story.

If you are fired, you will probably be disqualified from receiving benefits. However, you must have committed “misconduct related to work.” There may be situations where you were discharged for violating an employer policy, but it is not considered misconduct by the career center. For example, a one-time violation of a rule may have been enough for your employer to fire you, but not bad enough to be misconduct.

Be aware that the requirements of the Career Center are central to your receiving benefits. Failure to adhere to their rules may also disqualify you from receiving benefits.

If you are denied benefits, please visit our section on appealing benefits decision in Kentucky.


For further information on applying for unemployment benefits in Kentucky:

View the Kentucky Career Center’s home page

Read the Unemployment Insurance handbook

Read about your rights at the Appeals Bureau web page

Review Kentucky law regarding unemployment insurance

Visit a Career Center location near you


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