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Gov. Beshear appears to have taken right steps

Rep. Angie Hatton

Rep. Angie Hatton

As we near the one-month anniversary since Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, there are encouraging signs that the steps we’re taking are the right ones.

We have been fortunate not to see an overwhelming number of cases like those in New York and Michigan, and we have also kept our percentage lower than in states like Tennessee that have implemented fewer precautions.

As we wait for the number of cases to peak and then decline, the goal is to avoid exceeding the limits of our healthcare facilities and the doctors and nurses we all count on to keep us healthy. So far, thanks to efforts we have all undertaken to keep the virus’ spread at a minimum, we have been able to do just that.

We know these actions have not been easy, and that they carry a high price for many. To help, Washington has approved a $2 trillion federal stimulus package, while the General Assembly has unanimously supported legislation designed to assist at the state level.

I was proud to vote for Senate Bill 150 last Thursday, because it extends the safety net to more Kentuckians who have lost their jobs, or much of their income, as a result of necessary steps we have had to take. This bill also gives our healthcare providers and businesses more support, too.

The biggest impact of Senate Bill 150 is the expansion of Kentucky’s unemployment insurance program. This will make more groups of workers eligible like private contractors, substitute teachers and others who have seen their hours significantly reduced because of the coronavirus.

Overall, unemployment in Kentucky is around 50,000, and could exceed 60,000 by the summer, state officials say. If you are among those workers affected, more information can be found on the state’s website for unemployment insurance at https//kcc.ky.gov/.

Other changes made possible by Senate Bill 150 will ease rules for business licenses during this state of emergency, and extend good-faith legal protections for healthcare workers as well as companies that have graciously changed their production lines to make needed medical supplies or equipment. This bill also broadens access to telehealth technology, so more patients can be treated without having to risk exposing others.

Once this crisis has passed, I think we will look back on this time in two ways. It will be remembered as one of the more difficult periods our country has seen in most of our lifetimes, but it also has showed us just how many are willing to reach out and help. Creative actions like “bear” hunts for children and the willingness of neighbors to run errands for others, especially those most at risk of getting sick, are things that have already made our community even stronger.

Beyond Senate Bill 150, the General Assembly voted for other bills last Thursday that are beneficial in their own right. One gives our local governments more authority over the retirement system for city and county government workers, and another updates our human-trafficking laws, to make it more likely that we catch and prosecute these cases, which are more widespread than many of us would think.

This week, the General Assembly will return to the Capitol for a single day to vote on the state’s two-year budget, which quickly turned out to be more difficult to write given what has happened over the past month. It’s likely we will be able to do little more than maintain current-year spending.

After Governor Beshear reviews it, other legislators and I will return for one or two days in mid-April to decide whether to override any vetoes he might issue regarding the budget or other bills the General Assembly has sent to him.

I want to thank everyone who has contacted me this legislative session, and although it is nearing the end, it is never too late to let me know what you think about issues affecting the commonwealth.

My email is Angie.Hatton@lrc.ky.gov, while the toll-free line to leave a message for me or any legislator is 1-800-372-7181. You can use either to contact me throughout the year.

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