Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Date Available


Degree Name

Master of Public Financial Management

Committee Chair

Dr. Urton Anderson

Committee Member

Dr. Rhonda Trautman

Committee Member

Dr. Joshua Bush

Executive Summary

In March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the United States. The deadly virus filled hospitals to capacity and caused approximately 375,000 deaths nationwide over the next nine months (Ahmad et al., 2021). In an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, federal and state governments closed businesses and agencies within a matter of weeks. Almost as quickly as the threat to human health changed the lives of Americans, the secondary threat of economic disruption began to unfold. Nationwide unemployment rates increased from approximately 4% to 15% between February 2020 and April 2020 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). In response, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was passed in March of 2020. It provided needed funding for relief to businesses and citizens who were impacted. One provision of the CARES Act was to help states provide unemployment insurance (UI) to workers who were impacted during the pandemic including those who were not traditionally eligible for unemployment insurance such as small business and those who are self-employed. The CARES Act passed quickly because of the emergency circumstances the pandemic presented. Consequently, it had a short timeframe for policy development. The legislation relied on states to implement the programs but provided insufficient guidance. Meanwhile, states faced public pressure to distribute the payments quickly. Expedited implementation, high volume of recipients, and scarcity of staff resources in government offices during the pandemic caused challenges to states in distributing the benefits to their entitled recipients. This report focuses on how the state of Kentucky dealt with the challenges of implementing the CARES UI program implementation. Laws, government reports, news articles, and audits are examined to provide context and a general understanding about the CARES Act and its provisions for unemployment. The research will examine how Kentucky dealt with challenges common to many states as well as how it handled its own unique UI program implementation challenges.

The purpose of doing a case study is to provide an in-depth analysis of successes and failures of CARES Act UI programs in Kentucky. The circumstances and reasons for the outcomes that occurred can provide valuable lessons about UI public policy in Kentucky. The conclusions from this study can be used to develop more sound public financial management practices and to inform policy planning for emergency health and economic crises. Applicability of this analysis may be beneficial on the federal level where future policy is written, and on the state level, where states can design more robust unemployment insurance programs.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.