Kentucky (KY) Unemployment Eligibility

Calendar Icon Updated February 26, 2019

A Guide to Unemployment Benefits in Kentucky

Unemployment Insurance (UI) is an employer paid insurance program that provides benefits to individuals when they are separated from a job at no fault of their own. UI benefits help cover the gap in lost wages while you are between jobs. The benefits are not based on need and paid out in weekly payments as long as eligibility is met and reported on a weekly basis. If you were let go from your job, experience significantly reduced hours or are out of the job due to a company closure, you are likely eligible for UI benefits.

How Unemployment Works in Kentucky

The Kentucky Department of Workforce Investment’s Office of Employment and Training (OET) oversees unemployment insurance benefits for the state. In addition to upholding Kentucky unemployment laws, the mission of the office is to provide quality jobs for people and quality people for jobs. 

Services the Kentucky unemployment office offers to meet this goal include temporary financial assistance for unemployed individuals (UI), labor market information (such as the Kentucky unemployment rate) and the upkeep of Kentucky’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which supports the cost of UI in the state. Overall, these activities are designed to promote economic well-being for Kentucky. Workforce services are administered by the Kentucky Career Center, which operates a network of career center locations throughout the state where you can meet one on one with career coaches and counselors.

How to Get Unemployment in Kentucky

  1. Create an account
    With an online Kentucky unemployment insurance account, you’ll be able to file your claim, submit weekly claims and keep track of general benefit account information. Use the 
    online portal to create an account and get started. You will be asked to select a pin at startup. File your login information away for safe keeping as you will need it to access everything you need to file your claims and receive benefits. Alternatively, you may file your claim by calling the Kentucky unemployment number at 502-875-0442.
  2. File a claim
    Once your account has been created, you are ready to file your claim. You will be asked to provide detailed information, such as your employment history, wages earned, contact information and other documentation that helps determine eligibility. You will not be able to collect benefits until all pertinent information has been submitted, so do so as quickly as possible after becoming unemployed. The Kentucky unemployment application takes roughly 15 minutes to complete. It is best to complete it all at once. If you leave the page idle for 30 minutes you will be automatically logged out and your work may be lost.
  3. Complete your eligibility review
    Your Kentucky unemployment eligibility is based on a variety of factors. The employment office’s system will prompt you to complete your eligibility review before receiving payment. Do so in a timely manner to avoid risking your benefits.
  4. Setup your payment options
    Through the online system, you will also be prompted to decide how you receive your Kentucky unemployment compensation payments. You may choose from direct deposit or prepaid debit card.

What are the eligibility requirements to qualify for unemployment benefits in Kentucky?

As in other states, eligibility for State of Kentucky unemployment insurance benefits is not based on need. That being said, there are many other eligibility requirements that must be met in order to receive benefits. To be eligible, you must:

  • Be a Kentucky resident
  • Meet income requirements for work completed in Kentucky
  • Be able, available and actively searching for work
  • Be out of work at no fault of your own

Earnings eligibility requirements

Every state looks at a one-year “base-period” of wages when determining UI eligibility. In Kentucky, the base period is the first four out of the last five calendar quarters before your claim was made. To meet Kentucky unemployment requirements, you must: 

  • Have earned a minimum of $750 in at least one base period quarter
  • Have earned a minimum of $750 total outside the base period quarter when you earned the most
  • Have earned at least 1.5 times your wages in the highest paid quarter of your base period
  • Have wages in the last two base period quarters that equal a minimum of eight times your weekly benefit amount

Be able, available and actively searching for work

UI is a temporary support designed to last only as long as it takes an individual to get back to work. That’s why making every reasonable attempt to land a new job is such an important component of unemployment eligibility. In order to be making every reasonable attempt to get a job, an individual must be able to work, available for work and actively searching for work.

Able to work refers to being physically and mentally capable of holding a job. If you are sick, injured or disabled, you do not likely qualify for UI benefits in Kentucky. However, if you have a disability or condition but are able to work with reasonable accommodation, you are considered able to work.

Available for work refers to an individual who has nothing preventing them from taking a reasonable new position should it be offered to them. If you are on vacation or going to school you are generally not considered available for work and are not entitled to benefits during this time. Additionally, if you have very limited hours you are available for work or have no transportation to get to a job, you may not be classified as available and therefore not be able to receive benefits.

Being able and available for work is not enough to qualify for Kentucky unemployment. In addition to these two characteristics, you must also maintain an active job search in an attempt to get reemployed as quickly as possible. You will submit a log of your job search activities in each Kentucky weekly benefit claim you submit.

Be out of work at no fault of your own

While every case is different, your Kentucky unemployment benefits eligibility is not likely if you were fired or quit your job. In these cases, you are welcome to apply for Kentucky unemployment benefits, but the claim is likely to be denied. In order to receive Kentucky UI, you must be out of work, or receiving significantly reduced hours, at no fault of your own. This type of employment generally occurs through lay off or company closure. While being fired for misconduct or quitting are not usually grounds for unemployment insurance benefit eligibility, there are certain circumstances where the reason for quitting is that you had no other choice than to do so. In these cases you may be able to collect unemployment benefits.

How do I apply for Kentucky unemployment benefits?

When you are ready to file your Kentucky unemployment claim, you need the following information handy:

  • Social Security number or alien registration number
  • Your contact information, including address and phone number
  • Contact information for all recent employers
  • Dates worked for all recent employers
  • Wages earned from all recent employers


To file Kentucky unemployment online, visit Kentucky Career Center’s online portal Monday through Friday, excluding holidays, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or Sunday from 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Sunday.

By Phone

To file file Kentucky unemployment by phone, call the Kentucky unemployment phone number at 502-875-0442. The line is open Monday through Friday, excluding holidays, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A landline is suggested and you must use a touchtone phone to make the call. Have all your pertinent application information ready. Simply follow the prompts and you’ll be on your way to filing your claim. OET suggest using a landline to make the call because if the call is dropped from a mobile phone the claim cannot be processed and you will need to start your application over.

What are the work search requirements for receiving unemployment benefits in Kentucky?

To remain eligible and keep receiving your UI benefits, you must actively search for work and report this activity in your Kentucky unemployment weekly claim. The first step is registered for Focus Career on the Kentucky unemployment website.

Focus Career helps job seekers who are unemployed as well as those looking to make a career move away from a current position. Services include:

  • Build or improve your professional résumé with an easy-to-use wizard
  • Explore job leads that match your transferable skills and abilities
  • Schedule daily or weekly alerts that send jobs straight to your inbox
  • Explore paths and options to reach your education and career goals

Focus Career helps you start from the foundation of your job search, which includes personal branding, exploration and preparing for the job search. In addition to job leads, you will learn how to prepare for finding a next job that suits you.

How much will my unemployment insurance payments be in Kentucky? 

The Kentucky unemployment amount is calculated at roughly 1.19% of your total earnings during your base period. The maximum payment is $415 per week and the minimum is $39.

How soon will I be paid my Kentucky unemployment benefits?

Once it is determined that you meet all of the Kentucky unemployment qualifications and are eligible for benefits, you will begin receiving weekly UI payments. You will not receive a payment for the first week in which your claim was made. This period is called a waiting week and no benefits are provided.

How long can I receive unemployment benefits in Kentucky?

Kentucky unemployment benefits are paid for a maximum of 26 weeks, though a Kentucky unemployment extension may be put in place to increase this limit during times of high unemployment.

Can I appeal the decision if my Kentucky unemployment benefit claim is denied?

If you disagree with the determination made by the Kentucky unemployment office in regards to your benefits, you have the right to appeal. You must submit your letter of appeal in writing within 15 business days of the postmarked date of your denial.

After filing your appeal, a hearing will be scheduled. Most hearings take place over the phone. You will have an opportunity to present evidence that helps your case. If you are dissatisfied with the result of the appeal you may make an additional appeal to the court within 20 business days.

10 Tips for a Better Kentucky Unemployment Benefits Experience

  1. Be accurate and complete, filling in all the information asked for in your claim. Failure to do so may result in a delay in getting your benefits.
  2. Stay organized with a calendar marked with important dates, including the day you file your claim, when your eligibility review is happening, your next career counselor appointment, when you need to file your Kentucky unemployment weekly claims, etc. Delays in benefits are often a result of missing important dates and deadlines.
  3. Register for work using Focus Career before event requesting you first benefit payment.
  4. Maintain accurate records of all job search activities to be submitted with your eligibility review.
  5. Avoid calling the help line on Mondays, when wait times are longest. Choose a date later in the week for quicker service.
  6. Keep your email active and check it often. You are required to submit a valid email address. This is the easiest way for the Kentucky unemployment department to contact you.
  7. If someone from the Kentucky unemployment office reaches out, communicate with them as soon as possible.
  8. Keep your UI claim information, including your account pin, secure. Don’t allow any other person to access your account or make a claim on your behalf under and circumstance.
  9. Return documents quickly using the document upload option within the online Kentucky unemployment claim filing system.
  10. Utilize your career counselor. He/she is your best resource for finding your next job. Be in frequent contact, ask for help and inquire about resources.

How to Contact the Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Program

You can reach the UI program by calling one of the Kentucky unemployment office locations or the general Kentucky unemployment contact number at 502-564-3925.

Eligibility Team

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