Kentucky House passes economic relief related to COVID-19

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Economic relief for COVID-19-impacted businesses and workers, including extended eligibility for unemployment, has received final passage in the Kentucky House.

Senate Bill 150, a bill sponsored by Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, that originally dealt with out-of-network insurance billing, as amended in free conference negotiations between the House and Senate passed the House 82-0 after clearing the Senate 30-0 earlier today.

The relief provisions, which include all provisions added and approved by the House last week and new provisions agreed to in the free conference committee today, would be triggered immediately after the bill is signed into law by the governor or otherwise becomes law. The relief would sunset, or cease, once the current state of emergency ends by declaration of the governor or, otherwise, by action of the General Assembly in regular session.

A key provision added to SB 150 today would extend unemployment eligibility to the self-employed, including many small business owners and gig workers who were not previously eligible for unemployment benefits under Kentucky law, said Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville, who presented SB 150 for a vote in the House.

Rowland said other provisions added by the free conference committee would shield Kentucky taxpayers from tax filing penalties and interest due to an extension of the state’s tax filing and payments deadline in adherence with federal changes, expands telehealth opportunities, and provides immunity to health care providers who provide treatment “in good faith” during the current health emergency, among other provisions.

Other provisions in the bill that were added by the House last week would:

  • Allow government agencies or appropriate boards or commissions to waive license fees for businesses forced to close or significantly impacted.
  • Help displaced workers access benefits quickly.
  • Protect small business owners forced to lay off workers by preventing an increase in the calculated unemployment rate.
  • Allow restaurants to repurpose their business plans to allow retail sale of items out the door without requiring new licensing.
  • Allow liquor by the drink to be sold at eligible establishments, among other provisions.

Voting in support of the bill was Rep. Rachel Roberts, D- Newport, who called SB 150 “good government.”

“This bill came through a real bipartisan effort that was championed at both ends of this hallway,” she said. “I know I’m new here, but I feel this was what we were brought here to do and I’m really grateful that we got this work done.”

SB 150 now goes to the governor for his signature.