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KY Bill Would Expand Jobless Benefits to Those Fleeing Domestic Violence

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Thursday, April 14, 2022   

Kentucky lawmakers are considering a bill to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits to victims of domestic violence.

House Bill 83 would require claimants to provide documentation such as police records, court records or sworn statements by shelter workers, clergy or medical professionals. Supporters of the bill say expanding eligibility will keep more families safe.

Rep. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville, the bill's sponsor, said the measure is a good policy for investing in the state's workforce for individuals in urgent and desperate situations.

"I think it's important that people recognize that," Kulkarni asserted. "Because there's a lot of stigma and a lot of silence around the issue of interpersonal violence, that we don't as policymakers always focus on or take into consideration the needs of those individuals experiencing this."

According to data from the National Institutes of Health, domestic-violence offenses lead to the deaths of around 40 Kentuckians a year. The bill sits with the Kentucky Senate for final action today, the last day of the legislative session.

Tori Henninger, executive director of Barren River Area Safe Space in Bowling Green, explained financial abuse often occurs alongside physical, sexual and emotional and psychological abuse.

"And so frequently, and overwhelmingly, part of the power and control that abusers use to maintain the abusive relationship is through a lack of available resources to meet your basic needs," Henninger observed.

She added many women report missing days of work or losing jobs because of their abuser, and said being able to access transitional income through unemployment benefits could be a game changer for survivors.

Rep. Samara Heavrin, R-Leitchfield, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the safety and well-being of children are at risk when their parent is forced to remain in an abusive relationship for financial reasons.

"Stability is something that's important in all of our lives, no matter what age you're at," Heavrin contended. "And if you're in a bad situation, and you need help getting out, I think it's important that we recognize that as a community, and are able to help with that."

According to Kentucky Youth Advocates, in 2020, the state had nearly 17,000 child victims of abuse or neglect and more than half the cases had family violence as a factor.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233.


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