House passes legislation aimed at helping Kentucky businesses with unemployment insurance costs

UPDATED: Kentucky businesses continue to struggle as the state seeks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Costs still linger for employers from when the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund was drained by claims because of shutdowns in the early days of the pandemic. And repayment of that fund is the burden of employers.

The House passed a bill Monday that would extend policy that was passed last year to address these issues.

House Bill 144, sponsored by Rep. Russell Webber, suspends taxable wage base and holds the 2020 tax schedule for 2022 when it comes to unemployment insurance as employers face a huge increase in the face of high unemployment rates as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation also requires all benefits paid due to a declared emergency come from a pooled account and not individual employers reserve accounts.

This legislation was passed through the General Assembly in the 2021 session with the year 2022 included in the bill but that portion of the language was line item vetoed by Gov. Andy Beshear.

Webber said House Bill 144 allows small businesses to keep doors open, meet the costs that are still there, and gives them some much-needed breathing room.

“This is a reasoned approach to getting fund solvent and keeping businesses open and employing Kentuckians, moving our state ahead,” Webber told the committee.  

Kentucky Chamber Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Kate Shanks testified in favor of the bill in the House Economic Development and Workforce Development Committee stating this bill would save Kentucky businesses $70 per employee on average which will be a huge help to many.

House Bill 144 complements House Bill 1, the House budget proposal passed earlier this session, that includes $312 million for the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. This appropriation would return the trust fund balance back to its pre-pandemic level while House Bill 144 returns the UI tax schedule back to its pre-pandemic level.

House Bill 144 passed 87-4 and now moves to the Senate for consideration in committee.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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