The Kentucky legislature has passed an emergency bill to expand unemployment benefits, allow the governor to waive several business and tax fees and expand telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure also requires Gov. Andy Beshear to declare in writing when he decides to end Kentucky’s current state of emergency. If he has not done so by the start of the next legislative session, the measure allows the the legislature to end it.
The chief purpose of the bill is to provide relief to Kentucky workers and businesses bruised by the pandemic and ensuing restrictions that have closed down much of the state. Lawmakers also hope the measure will help prop up the state’s economy. By one estimate Kentucky could lose 67,000 jobs by June.
Here is some of what the bill will do:
- Extend unemployment benefits to self-employed workers and contractors, who were previously ineligible. Full-time workers who are knocked down to part-time would be eligible for unemployment as well.
- Waive the seven-day waiting period before a laid off worker can apply for unemployment and expand the look-back period for determining benefits.
- Allow restaurants to sell liquor by the drink with food takeout orders and sell grocery items to customers.
- Allow Gov. Beshear to waive several business fees and penalties. It extends the tax filing deadline to July 15, in conformity with the federal government.
- Ease privacy rules for health care providers, allowing them to be able to contact patients remotely instead of in person.
- Allow agencies and local governments to use conference call and video to conduct open meetings. It also extends the deadline an agency has to respond to an open records request from three to 10 days.
The bill will now go to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk for his consideration.