HB 83 would apply in cases where the victim fears violence in or en route to the workplace
UPDATE: (MARCH 25, 2022)
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Laughter fills the halls of GreenHouse17a domestic violence program in central Kentucky.
It houses approximately 300 people and serves approximately 7,000 men, women and children each year, who are survivors of domestic violence or currently in a situation of domestic violence.
“Anything we can do to help reduce the barriers families face as they try to walk away from violence,” said Executive Director Darlene Thomas.
Thomas says one of those hurdles is finances.
According to the Kentucky Coalition of Domestic Violence, 83% of domestic violence victims said their ability to work had been negatively affected by an abusive partner.
“Those who use violence in the relationship understand the importance of economic security and financial security, and they do a lot to try to affect that or destroy it,” Thomas added.
This is where House Bill 83 comes in.
He recently adopted a house committee. It would extend unemployment benefits to victims of domestic violence who cannot work or have to stop working, for fear of violence at their place of work or on the way to their place of work, or if they wish to move to avoid violence .
Survivors would need to provide documentation of police reports, court records, and statements from health care providers, clergy, and a shelter worker to qualify for benefits.
Benefits would be charged to the common state account, not employers.
“Having this opportunity to have an income while recovering will be critical for survivors,” Thomas said.
Thomas hopes House Bill 83 will pass as it heads to the full House for consideration.
“But more importantly to be able to tell survivors that they are valuable, they are valued and we as a community are supporting you as you try to figure out your next steps and we were going to help you until what you came out on the other side” says Thomas.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/PRESS RELEASE) (MARCH 24, 2022) – A bipartisan initiative to expand unemployment benefits for victims of domestic violence is underway in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
The House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 83. Rep. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville, said she and Rep. Samara Heavrin, R-Leitchfield, have been working with stakeholders on the legislation for a few years.
“What this bill does is enable victims of domestic violence, dating, sexual and harassment who quit their jobs, are unable to work or separated from their jobs due to circumstances directly related to that violence, to be eligible for unemployment benefits…”. Kulkarni said.
HB 83 would apply in cases where the victim fears violence at or on the way to the workplace, Kulkarni added. A victim would also be eligible if they wish to move to another area to avoid future violence or to protect their safety and health, that of their family or co-workers.
Kulkarni cited several studies that show domestic violence is linked to unemployment, with 83% of domestic violence survivors saying their ability to work has been negatively affected by an abusive partner. Kulkarni said this legislation is necessary because Kentucky has a higher rate of domestic violence than the national average.
“Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men during their lifetime. In Kentucky, that number is higher,” Kulkarni said. “One in three women and one in eight men have been victims of domestic violence. Nearly 1 in 2 women in Kentucky and 1 in 5 men have reported sexual violence at some point in their lives.
HB 83 would require applicants to provide documents to prove their eligibility, Kulkarni added. Documents may be police records, court records, affidavits, or other documents of abuse provided by the victim, shelter workers, clergy, medical professionals, or other professionals with from which the victim sought help.
“This evidence would remain confidential under this legislation,” Kulkarni said.
The bill would also direct the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Workforce Development to develop a confidential verification process designed to detect fraudulent claims and train employees.
Under HB 83, benefits would be paid from a common account and not from the employer’s reserve account.
“Furthermore, nothing in this bill will affect an employer’s experience rating for the purposes of calculating the employer’s unemployment insurance tax rate,” Kulkarni added.
The measure would also require the firm to train employees in handling complaints and provide a report by September 30 each year to the Legislative Research Commission detailing the number of complaints filed.
During the discussion, Rep. Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell and Rep. Matt Lockett, R-Nicholasville, both told Kulkarni they liked the bill. Lockett asked Kulkarni about which pooled account would be used.
“The joint account is something employers contribute to, and it essentially reduces the burden on each employer to pay unemployment benefits,” Kulkarni said. “And so it will not be charged to an employer’s reserve account, which would be unique to an employer.”
Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, said he also likes the idea of the bill, but is concerned about the fear aspect of the legislation.
“It seems to me that maybe we’re going a bit too far,” he said.
Kulkarni said the wording of fear of violence in the bill means it has to be something that is happening right now and can be proven by documents and “not fear of violence or future abuses”.
In explaining their “no” votes, Rep. Josh Calloway, R-Irvington, and Rep. Scott Sharp, R-Ashland, said they were concerned about the potential for fraud. Calloway said he would like to speak further with Kulkarni and Heavrin about his concerns.
HB 83 is now before the full House for consideration.