Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a measure revamping Kentucky’s unemployment benefits rules was overridden by Republican lawmakers on Monday.
According to USNews, people receiving jobless benefits will have to search for work more often, and the length of time they receive benefits will depend on the unemployment rate. In times of low unemployment, this could reduce benefit weeks by more than half.
The veto override was among two veto overrides Monday as the GOP-controlled legislature flexed its policymaking muscles in the final days of the 2022 legislative session.
The legislature also passed a measure to end Kentucky’s COVID-19 state of emergency early, in mid-April, rather than in mid-March. In vetoing this bill, Beshear warned it would rob struggling Kentuckians of federal food assistance.
“I would admit that this bill is largely a symbol,” Republican Sen. John Schickel noted. “But it’s a very important symbol. The symbolism is we’re ready to move forward.”
Those opposed to the measure argued that it was politically motivated, noting that no statewide restrictions were in place regarding Coronavirus in Kentucky.
“What is the benefit other than it’s a political shot at the governor?” asked Democratic Sen. David Yates. “What is the benefit? It’s too much to risk here.”
Democrat and some eastern Kentucky Republicans opposed the veto override of the unemployment bill. Many coalfield and manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the region, so the GOP claims the bill will hurt their constituents struggling to find work.
As COVID-19 cases recede, businesses struggle to fill jobs. Supporters say the measure will help alleviate the state’s workforce shortages.
“There are 100,000 vacant jobs in Kentucky right now — across all sectors,” Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer stated.
“Help wanted signs are up everywhere. If you are an able-bodied, healthy Kentuckian, there is no excuse for you to not have a job.”
In his veto message, Beshear called the stricter jobless benefit standards “callous” and warned that the measure would result in more population losses in rural areas with few job opportunities.
Democratic Sen. Robin Webb called the measure “an insult to rural Kentucky” during the debate on Monday.
In the meantime, GOP Rep. John Blanton urged his colleagues to uphold the veto, saying the new standards will hurt his eastern Kentucky district.
As he vetoed the measure that would have ended the COVID-related state of emergency a few weeks early, Beshear said it would “take food directly off the tables” of Kentuckians, many of whom were children or elderly.
Food stamp benefits would be reduced by about $100 per month during a time of rising food prices, Beshear said.