During his first week in office, President Biden signed many executive orders aimed to address the coronavirus pandemic. Included in the orders is a request for the U.S. Department of Labor to clarify that workers have a “federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health,” and asks that they should qualify for unemployment insurance benefits.
The order says that no American should have to choose between paying their bills and keeping themselves and their families safe, pointing to the fact that in 2019, 43 percent of American households reported having a member with a preexisting condition, many of which are considered high-risk for COVID-19.
Since the coronavirus pandemic started in March 2020, states including Kentucky have addressed multitudes of unemployment insurance issues to protect employees. In June, the Commonwealth took out a $865 million loan from the federal government to help pay unemployment insurance benefits to Kentuckians.
After almost a year of battling COVID-19, Kentucky’s workforce participation rate is among the lowest in the nation and many businesses will be faced with a drastic increase to their unemployment insurance costs in 2021.
“We will continue to monitor this executive order and the effect it could have on Kentucky’s unemployment insurance system and workforce,” said Kentucky Chamber Vice President of Public Affairs Kate Shanks. ”As we continue to vaccinate Kentuckians and stop the spread of the virus, getting people back to work will be critical for our economic recovery.”