FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky lawmakers approved a bill with several measures to help people impacted by the coronavirus.
The legislature approved Senate Bill 150 unanimously Thursday after holding a joint conference committee to add more provisions into the bill.
The bill broadens unemployment benefits for employees who were either laid off or saw a reduction in hours due to the coronavirus, including the self-employed.The bill also waives the seven-day waiting period for collecting unemployment benefits. The bill also protects small business owners from having their unemployment insurance rate go up due to layoffs associated with COVID-19.
House Speaker David Osborne said it’s an important move in the right direction.
“There are only so many things we can do to address the concerns that people are feeling right now,” Osborne said. “These are very, very difficult times for the citizens of the commonwealth, but hopefully they understand that we’re doing the things that we can, and we’re using every tool available to us to provide as much relief as we possibly can, as quickly as we possibly can.”
There are several other measures in the bill, including more access to telehealth providers, the easing of legal liabilities for medical professionals treating coronavirus patients, and relaxing open records and meetings laws to give local governments more ability to hold meetings remotely.
All of the provisions would take effect immediately and would only last for the duration of Gov. Andy Beshear’s state of emergency order.
Another part of the bill would give the General Assembly power to end the emergency order if it extends into the next legislative session in January 2021. The bill received praise from House and Senate Democratic leaders.
“This is a good bill and its a good start,” Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey said. “It shows that there are things legislatively we can do when working together to help people, to help the businesses of Kentucky as we try to recover and deal with the epidemic of the coronavirus.”
Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, said lawmakers still have more time to address the coronavirus if more action is needed.
Lawmakers amended the legislative schedule due to the coronavirus and will return to Frankfort April 1 to vote on a budget.
They plan to meet again April 14 and 15 to finalize the two-year spending plan.