ThriveKY met on July 6 to inform the public of advocacy efforts taking place in social, private, and governmental sectors.
“The need for a coalition such as this is even more apparent in times of crisis. Kentuckians need a strong safety net at all times, so that when a pandemic such as COVID-19 strikes, we are prepared to be proactive and save lives,” according to a ThriveKY statement.
Sheila A. Schuster, executive director for Advocacy Action Network, gave the 2021 Legislative Interim Update — the interim session runs from June 1 to Dec 1. During the interim session, interim joint committees and statutory committees meet to discuss various topics, pre-filed bills, and other General Assembly bills.
Special committees and task forces include 1915c Home and Community-Based Waiver Redesign, Severe mental Illness, unemployment Insurance Reform, and other special committees appointed by legislative leaders during the regular session.
For the first time, the new Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity met. Senate Bill 10 established the commission during the 2020 regular session. Other capitol news was the announcement of the Capitol and Capitol Annex opening to the public resuming in-person services.
Cara Stewart for Kentucky Voices for Health discussed the child tax credits, noting the federal government appropriated $1.4 billion for Kentucky in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
Her presentation indicated the child tax credit amount was increased, its scope was expanded, the amount will be made through advance payments, it is fully refundable, and Puerto Rico and U.S. territories are now eligible for the credit. Stewart clarified that eligible 2019 and 2020 tax filers can now access tax credits. On July 15, eligible Kentuckians will begin receiving payments of $250.
The American Jobs and American Families Plans are currently proposed and are being considered for bipartisan approval. Stewart considers the two plans a “once in a generation investment in our children and families.” Permanent, long-term stability and growth will result, she said.
Anna Baumann of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy gave an economic overview update.
The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy estimates that 1,865,400 people were employed in May. Job loss from February 2020 is estimated at 91,600 — 68.9% of jobs have been recovered since April 2020.
“The research is clear: boosted unemployment benefits and the stimulus monies are not keeping people at home and they are not preventing people from being employed,” Baumann said.
Baumann said the hospitality and leisure industry regained the largest number of jobs.
Tyler Offerman of the Kentucky Equal Justice Center gave an unemployment insurance update.
There are 25,708 continued claims for state unemployment insurance for the week ending June 12, according to Offerman’s presentation.
“I really want to articulate a point here, the new unemployment programs the congress created, in response to the pandemic, are job creators, he said.
Offerman said fewer than one in five workers cited unemployment insurance as a reason why they are not returning to the labor force.
Jessica Klein of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy gave SNAP and P-EBT updates.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one in seven Kentuckians were food insecure. Klein said the pandemic increased the number of food-insecure Kentuckians.
Recertification renewals began in April, helping eligible Kentuckians receive SNAP benefits.
Klein noted SNAP benefits received a 15% increase through September, the public charge stipulation ended, and low-income college students seeking SNAP benefits now face less stringent requirements during their application process.
A new group of eligible families can participate in P-EBT, pandemic electronic benefit transfer program.
Families with children, ages 1-6, for the first time are now eligible to receive benefits.
During the Medicaid update, Priscilla Easterling of Kentucky Voices for Health, clarified the official termination date for the Public Health State of Emergency order is July 19, however, a 60-day notice has yet to be announced.
Easterling noted that Senate Bill 55 “permanently prohibits any form of cost-sharing, including copays in Medicaid/KCHIP.”
Easterling said with the passage of ARPA, 122,600 Kentuckians are eligible for new or enhanced subsidies.
Easterling said the Affordable Care Act lawsuit ruling upheld “a ton of protections” for Americans.
Adrienne Bush of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky presented eviction, housing assistance, and homeless services updates.
Bush said the eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in unison with Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order protects people from being evicted until July 31.
Emily Beauregard of Kentucky Voices for Health closed the virtual meeting with a stimulus check reminder.