As Kentucky continues to struggle with workforce issues, the General Assembly advanced two bills through committee Thursday that will help Kentuckians receive childcare assistance and avoid the “benefits cliff.”
Both policies follow up on progress from the 2022 session. First, House Joint Resolution (HJR) 39 is the result of recommendations from a task force created in 2022’s House Bill 708 seeking to offer more resources to support working families by studying Kentucky’s benefits cliff that occurs when an individual suddenly loses eligibility for public assistance due to a wage increase or because they started working more hours.
The recommendations included in HJR 39 include having the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) conduct a review of the state’s public assistance programs, analyze costs of childcare implementation, examine use of federal dollars being uses, and implement an outreach and education campaign to raise awareness of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and free tax filing services The EITC is a federal tax credit program that supports and rewards workforce participation and can help public assistance recipients overcome benefits cliffs.
Additionally, CHFS is charged with making available a user-friendly benefits cliff calculator available to Kentuckians applying or reapplying for public assistance benefits so that they and their case managers can fully explore issues that could arise related to earnings increases and benefit eligibility.
Kentucky Chamber Center for Policy and Research Executive Director Charles Aull testified in favor of the legislation stating this is an important issue that has become more pressing to Kentucky’s business community as companies are increasing wages and doing more to attract a talented workforce. Because of this, employees in some sectors often have to weigh taking a certain job against the loss of important public assistance benefits.
“This isn’t something where you can just flip a switch. These are state and federal partnerships. This resolution presents a good path forward to help give policymakers options to consider,” Aull said.
The House Standing Committee on Families and Children also heard House Bill 165, sponsored by new state Rep. Nick Wilson. The legislation is a technical cleanup bill for the Employee Child Care Assistance Partnership set up in House Bill 499 passed in the 2022 session.
House Bill 499 set up a public-private partnership to encourage businesses to provide childcare assistance as a benefit of employment. Employers interested in participating in the program can learn more here: https://www.kychamber.com/childcare .
Kentucky Chamber Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Kate Shanks told legislators the bill came after the Chamber heard from many member companies about people who wanted to work but couldn’t because of the cost of childcare and the barriers associated with it. Since the passage of House Bill 499, Shanks said there has been phenomenal feedback from the business community and the Chamber has been working with the state to market the program before applications go live in early April 2023. She added the Chamber is supportive of the technical changes in the new bill and is excited for the rollout of the program.
Both HJR 39 and House Bill 165 passed through the committee and now move to the full House.