Skip to Main Content

Public Assistance and Jobless Benefits

Public Assistance and Jobless Benefits

Renee Shaw and guests discuss legislation concerning public assistance and jobless benefits. Guests: Dustin Pugel, senior policy analyst at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy; Bryan Sunderland, state government affairs director for the Foundation for Government Accountability; Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO; and Anne-Tyler Morgan, attorney and McBrayer PLLC member.
Season 28 Episode 50 Length 56:33 Premiere: 3/28/22

Guest Debate Merits of State Legislation That Reduces Unemployment, Medicaid, and Food Stamp Benefits

As part of the busy 2022 General Assembly session, lawmakers passed overhauls to programs designed to help Kentuckians during times of hardship: House Bill 4 makes changes to unemployment benefits while House Bill 7 updates access to public assistance programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

HB 4 will become law after legislators overrode a veto from Gov. Andy Beshear, who said the measure goes against common sense and Kentucky values. He contends it will harm workers, families, and rural communities, while not improving the state’s lagging workforce participation rate.

The legislation reduces jobless benefits from the current 26-week maximum to between 12 to 24 weeks, depending on unemployment trends at the time.

“House Bill 4 is designed to help get people back into the workforce and it will increase the job participation rate,” says Bryan Sunderland, state government affairs director for the Foundation for Government Accountability. “When times are good like they are now, with 167,000 open jobs in Kentucky and a really low unemployment rate, you still get three months to help find a job, and if the economy turns sour, you get more weeks of benefits.”

That change, though, would decrease benefits from an average of $9,400 for 26 weeks down to about $4,400 for 12 weeks, according to Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan. He says that’s money unemployed workers need to pay their household bills and feed their families.

“I just think this is a very terrible way to treat the workers of Kentucky who get laid off due to no fault of their own and who need a helping hand to get to their next job,” says Londrigan.

Opponents also criticize how tying benefits to a statewide index of unemployment will hurt already economically disadvantaged regions of the state. They contend the overall unemployment rate for Kentucky could be lower than local rates in struggling communities, yet people in those places would still get fewer weeks of benefits. Critics say that will lead to a further depopulation of those areas as people leave to find work elsewhere.

Kentuckians would also be at risk of losing their benefits after only six weeks if they decline a job offer even if the new position pays less than the job they lost. Dustin Pugel, senior policy analyst at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, says that will result in people making less money in jobs for which their work experience could be a poor match.

“So it’s not only worse for those workers who are going to end up with lower wages,” says Pugel, “it’s worse for employers and it’s worse for the economy overall because the skillsets that they’ve been developing over a lifetime are no longer being put to use.”

Advocates of HB 4 argue it’s important to get people back into the workforce even at lower wages, and then they can climb their way back into higher paying positions.

“I just don’t believe the premise that a person should wait until the perfect job comes along is the right way for them to find employment,” says Anne-Tyler Morgan, an attorney with McBrayer PLLC. “Getting them back into the workforce and then able to look for a job in their field is the ramp that’s recommended by this bill.”

The bill does incentivize unemployed individuals to pursue job training and certifications by offering them an additional five weeks of unemployment benefits while they train. Sunderland says that can encourage them to retool their skills for in-demand fields.

But Londrigan says people will still have to pay for that job training, which will create another financial burden during an already difficult time. Pugel warns that states that have reduced their benefits below the 26-week national standard have failed to see improved labor participation rates or a reduction in the number of available jobs.

Changes to Public Assistance Programs

On the last evening before the veto period, the House of Representatives gave final passage to new rules for public assistance benefits. HB 7 includes a public engagement requirement for able-bodied adults on Medicaid who have no dependents. It also changes the reporting requirements for people on benefits to disclose changes in income or life circumstance, and imposes tougher sanctions against those committing welfare fraud. The legislation also calls for a study of the so-called benefits cliff in which people suddenly lose all of their public assistance simply by earning a few dollars more than the income requirements for those programs.

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy reported that as many as 200,000 Kentuckians could lose their Medicaid benefits under HB 7, and thousands more could lose access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.

“We don’t think that this is a really good way forward for either improving the safety net or helping people get back to work,” says Pugel.

If the goal is moving people back into the workforce, Pugel says the state should promote child care for working parents, services to help those caring for an elderly or disabled family member, and higher wages for workers.

Morgan says claims of thousands of needy Kentuckians losing their benefits under HB 7 are wildly overstated.

“Under this bill, the only benefits that will be lost are if people take illegal action with regard to their benefits or if they’re able-bodied with no dependents and refuse… to work,” says Morgan.

Earlier versions of the bill had stricter reporting requirements that Pugel says would’ve have been difficult for benefit recipients to comply with, and place more administrative burden on the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to track. He says most people don’t lose their benefits because they don’t qualify, but rather because they’ve failed to complete the necessary paperwork

Sunderland says the state Medicaid rolls have skyrocketed, going from just under 15 percent of the state’s population in 2000 to a full third of the population in 2020. He says that increased enrollment has come with extensive fraud and higher costs. For example, he says Kentucky’s Medicaid expenses jumped 25 percent from 2016 to 2020. All these factors combined show that Medicaid is failing as a benefits program, according to Sunderland.

“The objective is to give people the resources and the help when they need it and to help them graduate from the program into a job, but the structure of the program is not designed to meet that objective,” says Sunderland. “The problem with most of our public assistance programs is they’re not paying people to get back to work, they’re paying people to stay poor.”

But Pugel and Londrigan argue that misses a critical reality for many of the working poor: That most people on Medicaid and SNAP are employed, but their jobs pay so little that they still qualify for public assistance. They also say that claims of widespread fraud among recipients are overblown.

“This really is an effort to push people off of these benefit programs,” says Londrigan. “The goal should be to uplift people, to give them the opportunity to succeed, and to provide for their families when they’re in tough economic circumstances.”

Sponsored by:

You give every Kentuckian the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through KET.

Kentucky Edition host Renee Shaw in a green dress with the logo superimposed over the image along with a CHECK SCHEDULE button.Kentucky Edition host Renee Shaw in a green dress with the set behind her and the logo superimposed over the image along with a CHECK SCHEDULE button.

Program Details

Kentucky Tonight

About Kentucky Tonight

Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, is an hour-long, weekly public affairs discussion program broadcasted live on Monday evenings. Discussions focus on issues confronting Kentuckians.

TV Schedules

Jump to Recent Airdates

Upcoming

Abortion

Renee Shaw and guests discuss abortion. Scheduled guests: Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates; Addia Wuchner executive director of Kentucky Right to Life; Rep. Nancy Tate (R- Brandenburg); and Rep. Josie Raymond (D- Louisville).

  • Monday June 27, 2022 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday June 27, 2022 7:00 pm CT on KET
  • Tuesday June 28, 2022 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 28, 2022 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 28, 2022 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 28, 2022 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 28, 2022 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 28, 2022 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 29, 2022 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 29, 2022 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 29, 2022 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 29, 2022 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 29, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 29, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KETKY

Kentucky Tonight

  • Monday July 11, 2022 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday July 11, 2022 7:00 pm CT on KET
  • Tuesday July 12, 2022 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 12, 2022 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 12, 2022 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 12, 2022 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 12, 2022 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 12, 2022 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 13, 2022 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 13, 2022 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 13, 2022 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 13, 2022 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 13, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 13, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KETKY

Kentucky Tonight

  • Monday July 18, 2022 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday July 18, 2022 7:00 pm CT on KET
  • Tuesday July 19, 2022 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 19, 2022 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 19, 2022 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 19, 2022 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 19, 2022 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 19, 2022 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 20, 2022 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 20, 2022 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 20, 2022 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 20, 2022 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 20, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 20, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KETKY

Kentucky Tonight

  • Monday July 25, 2022 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday July 25, 2022 7:00 pm CT on KET
  • Tuesday July 26, 2022 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 26, 2022 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 26, 2022 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 26, 2022 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 26, 2022 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 26, 2022 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 27, 2022 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 27, 2022 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 27, 2022 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 27, 2022 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 27, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 27, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
Jump to Upcoming Airdates

Recent

COVID-19 - S29 E23

  • Wednesday June 22, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 22, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 22, 2022 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 22, 2022 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 21, 2022 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 21, 2022 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 21, 2022 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 21, 2022 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 21, 2022 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 21, 2022 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday June 20, 2022 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday June 20, 2022 7:00 pm CT on KET

Opioid Addiction - S29 E22

  • Wednesday June 15, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 15, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 15, 2022 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 15, 2022 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 15, 2022 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 15, 2022 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 14, 2022 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 14, 2022 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 14, 2022 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 14, 2022 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 14, 2022 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 14, 2022 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday June 13, 2022 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday June 13, 2022 7:00 pm CT on KET

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws - S29 E21

  • Wednesday June 8, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 8, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 8, 2022 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 8, 2022 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 7, 2022 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 7, 2022 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 7, 2022 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 7, 2022 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 7, 2022 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 7, 2022 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday June 6, 2022 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday June 6, 2022 7:00 pm CT on KET

Gas Prices and Inflation - S29 E19

  • Wednesday May 25, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 25, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 25, 2022 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 25, 2022 8:30 am CT on KETKY
Top

Season 28 Episodes

Discussing New Developments in the COVID-19 Pandemic

S28 E84 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6/20/22

Reducing Opioid Addiction Rates in Kentucky

S28 E83 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 6/13/22

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

S28 E82 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6/6/22

Discussing the Rise in Gas Prices and Inflation

S28 E81 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 5/23/22

Previewing Kentucky's 2022 Primary Election

S28 E80 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 5/16/22

Third Congressional District Democratic Primary

S28 E79 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 5/9/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part Two

S28 E78 Length 58:33 Premiere Date 5/2/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part One

S28 E77 Length 58:40 Premiere Date 4/25/22

Lawmakers Review the 2022 General Assembly

S28 E76 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 4/18/22

Recap of the 2022 Legislative Session

S28 E75 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 4/11/22

Public Assistance and Jobless Benefits

S28 E50 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 3/28/22

Abortion Legislation in the 2022 General Assembly

S28 E49 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 3/21/22

State Budget, Taxes, and Other 2022 General Assembly Topics

S28 E48 Length 57:42 Premiere Date 3/14/22

Critical Race Theory and Approaches to Teaching History

S28 E47 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2/28/22

2022 Legislative Session at the Midpoint

S28 E46 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2/21/22

Name, Image and Likeness Compensation

S28 E45 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2/14/22

Child Abuse and Neglect

S28 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2/7/22

Debating School Choice in Kentucky

S28 E42 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 2/1/22

Debating Provisions in the Proposed State Budget

S28 E41 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 1/24/22

Redistricting, State Budget, and Other Legislative Issues

S28 E40 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 1/10/22

Discussing Legislative Goals for the 2022 General Assembly

S28 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 1/3/22

City and County Issues

S28 E38 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 12/13/21

Previewing the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly

S28 E37 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/6/21

Compensating College Athletes: Name, Image and Likeness

S28 E36 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/22/21

Trends in State and National Politics

S28 E35 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 11/15/21

Abortion Rights and Restrictions

S28 E34 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/8/21

Kentucky's Social Services System

S28 E33 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/1/21

School Choice in the Commonwealth

S28 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/25/21

Historical Horse Racing: A Growing Pastime in Kentucky

S28 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/11/21

New Developments and the Unknowns of COVID-19

S28 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/4/21

COVID and the Classroom

S28 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 9/27/21

Remembering 9/11, 20 Years Later

S28 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 9/13/21

Kentucky's Response to COVID-19

S28 E27 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 8/30/21

Discussing the Surge of COVID-19 Cases in Kentucky

S28 E26 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 8/23/21

Fancy Farm Preview and State Politics

S28 E25 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 8/2/21

Back-To-School Issues in Kentucky

S28 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 7/26/21

Childcare Challenges

S28 E23 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 7/19/21

The Urban-Rural Divide in Kentucky

S28 E22 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 7/12/21

Work Shifts: Kentucky's Labor Shortage and Hiring Challenges

S28 E21 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6/28/21

Public Infrastructure: What Kentucky Needs

S28 E19 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 6/21/21

Debating Critical Race Theory

S28 E18 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 6/14/21

Kentucky's Rebound From COVID-19

S28 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6/7/21

Jobs and the Economy

S28 E16 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 5/17/21

The Future of Policing in America

S28 E15 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 5/10/21

President Biden's First 100 Days

S28 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 5/3/21

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

S28 E13 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 4/26/21

Voting Rights and Election Laws

S28 E12 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 4/20/21

The 2021 General Assembly: Debating Major Legislation

S28 E11 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 4/12/21

Wrapping Up the 2021 General Assembly

S28 E10 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 3/29/21

School Choice in Kentucky

S28 E9 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 3/22/21

No-Knock Warrants

S28 E8 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 3/15/21

Proposed Legislation to Modify Kentucky Teachers' Pensions

S28 E6 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 2/22/21

Debating Historical Horse Racing Legislation

S28 E5 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2/8/21

New Lawmakers in the 2021 Kentucky General Assembly

S28 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 2/1/21

A Nation Divided

S28 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 1/18/21

Recapping the Start of the 2021 General Assembly

S28 E2 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 1/11/21

Previewing the 2021 General Assembly

S28 E1 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 1/4/21

About

Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, is a public affairs discussion program broadcasted live on Monday nights at 8/7c on KET and KET.org/live.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to kytonight@ket.org or use the message form on this page. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

After broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on KET.org and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

Kentucky Tonightwas awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

To purchase a DVD:

Call 1-800-945-9167 or e-mail shop@ket.org.

Contact

Explore KET