Kentucky bill would motivate jobless to find work, proponents say

Kentucky’s Legislature is considering a bill that would cut in half the number of weeks a person can receive unemployment benefits.

Under Kentucky’s current labor law, a person laid off for any reason other than misconduct is eligible to receive a portion of their paycheck for a maximum of 26 weeks. But under House Bill 252, the maximum number of weeks would change in accordance with the state’s unemployment rate. 

So if Kentucky’s unemployment rate climbs above 9.4 percent, the number of weeks for benefits caps at 26 weeks. But if the unemployment rate dips below 5.4 percent, unemployment insurance would cap at 14 weeks, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Kentucky’s current unemployment rate is 4.4 percent.

Proponents say the bill would help employers, who bear the burden of paying unemployment insurance, and incentivize jobless people to search for work.

“It’s strictly economic development,” the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Phillip Pratt, R-Georgetown, told the Lexington Herald-Ledger. “Make sure businesses come in and we’re competitive with our surrounding states.”

"It’s strictly economic development. Make sure businesses come in and we’re competitive with our surrounding states."

— Kentucky state Rep. Phillip Pratt, R-Georgetown

But opponents argue that cutting off benefits sooner could mean that some workers would not endure an employment crisis.

“People would end up losing their house, they could go bankrupt or have any other financial hardship,” warned Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky chapter of the AFL-CIO.

According to the Herald-Ledger, the average number of weeks Kentuckians collect unemployment benefits is 19.

The House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee is currently considering the bill. A decision will be made next week.

In January, Kentucky became the first state in the nation to add a work requirement for collecting Medicaid benefits, Fox News reported.