A bill pending in the Kentucky House intends to slash unemployment benefits to motivate laid-off workers to try harder to find a new job.
Under the proposal, instead of getting unemployment checks for the current maximum of 26 weeks, the unemployed would only get their benefits for a number of weeks tied to the state unemployment rate. As of current rates, that would translate to 14 weeks.
The sponsor of the bill, Rockfield Republican Rep. Jim DeCesare, explained his intent behind the proposed changes in the unemployment benefits: “We’ve got a segment of folks that use their unemployment instead of getting out there and looking for employment.”
DeCesare also noted that Kentucky ranks second among states in the length of time its people remain on unemployment benefits.
The average length of time a resident of Kentucky spends on benefits is about 19 weeks. If the bill is already law today, that would translate to Kentuckians losing about five weeks of benefits.
DeCesare shared he worked closely with the Bevi administration’s Education and Workforce Development Cabinet in drafting the bill. He also argued that the main reasons for House Bill 252 are to make Kentucky more competitive with its neighboring states in attracting business, and to boost Kentucky’s low workforce participation rate.
The bottom lines of Kentucky businesses would also be rewarded as benefits are funded with a tax employers pay on the wages of their workers.
Opponents of the bill, on the other hand, say the proposed benefit cuts are “cruel” and a “misguided blow” to people who lose their jobs through no fault of their own especially in areas of the state with chronic high unemployment rates.
Kentucky Center for Economic policy analyst Dustin Pugel argues that unemployment benefits are not an incentive “to sit around and do nothing. Those benefits are enough to hobble along and try to pay the bills, but not enough to live on.”