Legislation seeking to make changes to the state’s unemployment insurance and make Kentucky more competitive with surrounding states passed through the House Small Business and Information Technology Committee on Thursday.
House Bill 317, sponsored by Rep. Russell Webber, comes as Kentucky sees individuals remaining on unemployment insurance for longer amounts of time than those in surrounding states and the national average coupled with one of the lowest workforce participation rates in the country.
According to data presented to the committee, Kentuckians remain on unemployment for an average of 19 weeks, significantly above the national average of 15 weeks and 13.5 weeks for our border states.
Rep. Webber testified that the legislation seeks to get people back to work sooner and bring Kentucky’s unemployment insurance rate more in line with surrounding states.
The bill takes a new approach to unemployment benefits by “frontloading” benefits by providing 125% of weekly benefits for the first five weeks of unemployment, then 100% for the next five weeks, 75% for the following five weeks, and then 50% of weekly benefit for the remainder of the time on unemployment.
House Bill 317 also reduces the total amount of payouts from 26 weeks to 20 weeks. The legislation does, however, allow for an extension of benefits in the event of an economic downturn.
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Ashli Watts told lawmakers this legislation is an innovative approach to the issue and will help Kentuckians who have lost their employment through no fault of their own back to work sooner.
Lawmakers also heard testimony from the Kentucky AFL-CIO and Kentucky Center for Economic Policy who oppose the bill expressed concerns about the changes to benefits.
The bill passed through committee with a vote of 10-7 with one member passing on the vote. House Bill 317 now moves to the full House for a vote on the floor.