House approves COVID-relief measure for Kentucky workers, small businesses

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WBKO) -- Members of the House voted unanimously (82-0) to approve legislation aimed at helping Kentuckians, Kentucky businesses and Kentucky governments navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m extremely pleased to see such strong bi-partisan support for this relief bill, frankly for all the legislation we considered last week and today,” Speaker David Osborne added. “This bill will provide immense help in guiding the state’s response to COVID-19 and give the Governor and Executive Branch the authority and support they need to move forward. I would like to commend Rep. Rowland for his efforts to pull together a meaningful bill at a critical time.”

Kentuckians who lose their jobs or see their hours cut because of COVID-19’s impact on the economy will be able to access unemployment benefits immediately as SB 150 removes the seven-day waiting period.

The measure also extends benefits to self-employed and others who would normally not be eligible. The bill’s provisions also allow employees who have been reduced to part-time to draw a partial benefit.

According to Rep. Bart Rowland (R-Tompkinsville), the final version of SB 150 also includes help for business owners. Its provisions include language that prevents a business owner’s unemployment insurance rate from being adversely impacted because they were forced to lay employees off as a result of COVID-19.

The final version of SB 150 also permits the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to seek assistance from the federal government and use other resources to reimburse the unemployment insurance trust fund.

"We’ve seen a record number of people reach out to unemployment insurance, and I think that number will only grow in the weeks to come. I believe the changes we have made with SB 150 will make the unemployment insurance program even more valuable as a safety net and help set the stage for our recovery,” Rowland added.

Rowland added that SB 150 also clarifies physical and occupational therapists are temporarily deemed essential health care providers under Kentucky law.

Also, SB 150 gives the Kentucky boards of Medical Licensure, Emergency Medical Services, and Nursing the flexibility to waive or modify certain laws in order to deliver services necessary to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill also:

- Suspends requirement to obtain temporary restricted CDL licenses for farm-related services under certain circumstances

- Suspends open meetings laws to allow for live audio or live video teleconference meetings

- Allows live audio or live video teleconference for court-ordered counseling and educational classes

- Provides that a tax district may suspend or otherwise extend applicable deadlines for filing net profit or gross receipt returns

- Establishes immunity for businesses that make or provide personal protective equipment or personal hygiene supplies that do not do so in the normal course of their businesses

-Provides that a real-time video teleconference shall be considered in the presence of one another for purposes of complying with testimony, signature, or notarization requirements

- Requires the Governor to declare, in writing, the date that the COVID-19 emergency has ceased. In the event no such declaration is made on or before the first day of the next regular session, the GA may determine the date.

SB 150 was the final measure taken for consideration Friday. Lawmakers will continue working on the revised version of the state budget and are expected to return to session next week to vote on it.

“It may take months, maybe years, to understand what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to our state’s health and economy,” Rowland said. “We will continue to have to adapt our strategies to meet the needs of our people.”