Beshear accuses lawmakers of ‘cruel’ votes on veto waivers | Health, Medicine and Fitness
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican lawmakers voted to “kick struggling Kentuckians while they’re down” when they passed bills impacting unemployment benefits and food aid, Governor Andy Beshear said Tuesday.
The Democratic governor responded on social media a day after the GOP-led legislature voted to override its veto on both measures. Both proposals now become state law.
This reflects the bitter political disputes likely to continue between Beshear and Republican lawmakers. And some of the issues could carry over to next year’s campaign when the governor seeks a second term in the GOP-style Bluegrass state.
A bill passed over Beshear’s opposition revamps rules allowing laid-off Kentucky workers to receive unemployment benefits. It will increase job search requirements for people receiving unemployment benefits and link the length of time recipients receive benefits to the unemployment rate. This could more than halve the number of weeks of benefits in times of low unemployment.
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The other disputed measure ends Kentucky’s longstanding COVID-19 state of emergency a few weeks earlier than expected. Beshear warned the action had deeper consequences, saying it would cut additional federal food aid to struggling Kentuckians at a time of rising food prices.
In his scathing social media response on Tuesday to the veto waivers, the governor said public service should be about “helping, not hurting, those around you.”
“Our faith and values should compel us to be compassionate and just, but yesterday’s veto overrides by the General Assembly were cruel and will kick struggling Kentuckians while they’re down,” Beshear said.
Supporters of the unemployment-related measure call it an important step toward improving the state’s labor shortages as businesses struggle to fill jobs as COVID-19 cases recede .
“There are 100,000 job vacancies right now in Kentucky — across all industries,” Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said Monday. “Help signs are posted everywhere. If you are an able-bodied, healthy Kentuckian, you have no excuse for not having a job.
Beshear said the new unemployment insurance standards position Kentucky as “one of the least helpful states” for workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.
Meanwhile, wrangling continued Tuesday over the measure ending Kentucky’s two-year-old pandemic-related state of emergency a few weeks earlier.
“Lawmakers voted to take food off the tables of starving children and seniors at a time when groceries are too expensive,” Beshear said in a social media post.
As of February, about 544,000 low-income Kentuckians qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Due to the pandemic, the federal government provided about $50 million more in monthly SNAP benefits to Kentucky, according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. Beshear warned that the legislature’s action would result in a reduction of about $100 to their average monthly food stamp benefits.
Senate Republicans indicated Monday that governors can request a one-month extension for additional food aid beyond the emergency end date. But the governor’s office told lawmakers that a declaration of a state of emergency was required to receive the emergency food aid allocations.
Republicans noted that 28 other states have ended their COVID-19-related states of emergency. The measure ending Kentucky’s emergency is an indication that life is returning to normal after the long fight against the pandemic, they said.
“To continue to operate under a false emergency in an effort to withdraw federal dollars is simply fraudulent and unethical,” said Republican Senate President Robert Stivers.
The governor noted that Kentucky has had no statewide coronavirus restrictions for six months, rendering the measure unnecessary.
Republican House Speaker David Osborne said it was appropriate to end the state of emergency.
“The governor continues to have the authority to temporarily resolve any issues that arise using the emergency regulatory process, but the people of Kentucky cannot live under a state of emergency indefinitely,” the speaker said.
More political clashes are likely to erupt between the governor and lawmakers as the legislature considers a series of bills dealing with the state budget, taxation, education, social issues and the net. of social security. Tuesday was the 53rd day of this year’s 60-day session.
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