Legislation bringing reforms, freezing rates, and replenishing funding for Kentucky’s unemployment insurance system passed through the Kentucky state Senate Thursday.
House Bill 4, sponsored by Representative Russell Webber, reforms Kentucky’s unemployment insurance system while supporting re-employment, job training, and economic growth.
The bill ties the number of weeks an individual can receive benefits to economic conditions, contains an upskill provision to allows claimants to receive up to five additional weeks of benefits if the claimant is enrolled in pursuing higher education or training certifications, and establishes a “work-share” provision that gives employers an alternative to lay-offs.
Floor amendments that had been filed were withdrawn Thursday afternoon and the bill passed the Senate 22-13 with small changes that had been made in a committee substitute earlier this week.
Issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased employer rates and a depleted UI system, are addressed in an amended House Bill 144 that also passed out of the Senate 29-5.
House Bill 144 would suspend the taxable wage base and hold the 2020 tax schedule for 2022 when it comes to unemployment insurance. The legislation also requires all benefits paid due to a declared emergency come from a pooled account and not individual employers reserve accounts.
When the bill reached the Senate, it was passed through the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee with an amendment including an appropriation of approximately $242 million, which would restore the Kentucky unemployment insurance trust fund back to pre-pandemic levels. The appropriation will come from one-time monies Kentucky received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.
House Bill 4 and House Bill 144 now go back to the House for concurrence.