Kentucky governor calls to apologize to Tupac Shakur, who he mistakenly claimed was scamming unemployment

Daniel Desrochers

Lexington Herald-Leader

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear went full Dad-mode during his Monday night news conference, calling out the “bad apples” who filed for unemployment under fake names during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We had somebody apply for unemployment for Tupac Shakur here in Kentucky,” Beshear said, likely thinking of the rapper who died in the 90s. “And that person may have thought they were being funny, they probably did. Except for the fact that because of them, we had to go through so many other claims.”

One problem: Tupac Shakur does live in Kentucky. And he’s waiting on his unemployment benefits.

Tupac Malik Shakur, 46, goes by Malik. He lives in Lexington and worked as a cook at Alfalfa’s and Lynagh’s in Lexington before they closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

On March 13, the first day he could, he applied for unemployment insurance. On March 17, he got his monetary determination letter. He has been waiting on his unemployment money ever since.

“I’ve been struggling for like the last month trying to figure out how to pay the bills,” Shakur said.

Shakur said he’s been calling Frankfort frequently to try and figure out why his claim didn’t go through. He said he’s been wondering why it was being held up, but never would have guessed it’s because the education and workforce development cabinet thought it was a joke.

“I’m hurt, I’m really embarrassed and I’m shocked,” Shakur said. “He needs to apologize. That’s just my name.”

Beshear’s office originally said the state could not verify the identity on the application they received from a person named Tupac Shakur. The Herald-Leader gave the governor’s office Shakur’s phone number Monday night and the state is now working to resolve the claim.

Beshear called Shakur personally to apologize Tuesday morning.

Shakur said he appreciated the call and that he forgave Beshear for the error.

“I understand, he’s dealing with a lot,” Shakur said. “Mistakes happen.”

A record number of people have filed for unemployment in Kentucky — close to 24 percent of the state’s workforce. Beshear said Monday that the state processed 150,000 claims that were being held up Sunday night and that another 70,000 claims for people who applied for unemployment in March were being released.

So far, that hasn’t included Shakur.

Shakur hasn’t always been Tupac Malik Shakur. His father practiced Islam and after he died in the early 90s, Shakur took up the faith. Shakur said he had his name legally changed around 1998 and that he chose the last name because it means “thankful to God” in Arabic. The rapper Tupac Shakur died in 1996.

Shakur said people sometimes laugh about it or think it’s cool, but he never expected it would prevent him from being able to collect unemployment.

Jeb Messer, whose wife Amy owns Alfalfa’s and Lynagh’s, said he was frustrated by the fact that Shakur’s name would prevent him from being able to collect unemployment.

“We just assumed everyone was getting it,” Messer said. “That may have been a bad assumption on my part.”

Messer said he didn’t understand why the state didn’t try harder to verify Shakur’s identity.

“Something this minor shouldn’t hold up a system that’s ensuring the well-being of this many people right now,” Messer said.


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