Kentucky GOP lawmakers override veto of unemployment benefits measure

Republican lawmakers on Monday brushed aside Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a measure revamping rules for Kentucky’s laid-off workers to receive unemployment benefits.

The legislation will increase work-search requirements for people receiving jobless benefits and tie the length of time recipients get benefits to the unemployment rate. That could cut the number of benefit weeks by more than half in times of low jobless rates.

The veto override votes cleared the legislature over objections from Democrats and some eastern Kentucky Republicans. GOP opponents of the bill were concerned it would hurt their constituents struggling to find work in a region where many coalfield and manufacturing jobs have disappeared.

Supporters portrayed the measure as an important step toward improving the state’s workforce shortages as businesses struggle to fill jobs as COVID-19 cases recede.

“There are 100,000 vacant jobs in Kentucky right now, across all sectors,” Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said. “Help wanted signs are up everywhere. If you are an able-bodied, healthy Kentuckian, there is no excuse for you to not have a job.”

In his veto, Beshear condemned the measure as “callous,” warning that it would spur more population losses in rural regions with fewer job opportunities.

During the debates Monday, Democratic Sen. Robin Webb called the measure “an insult to rural Kentucky.” GOP Rep. John Blanton implored his colleagues to sustain the veto, saying the proposal’s new standards would hurt his eastern Kentucky district.

Kentucky now offers up to 26 weeks of eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits. Under the bill, people would collect benefits for 12 to 24 weeks, with the length determined by an indexing formula based on unemployment trends. The bill would add five weeks of benefits for people enrolled in approved job training or certification programs.




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