FRANKFORT (KT) – While the General Assembly has enacted legislation reducing the number of weeks Kentuckians are eligible to receive unemployment benefits, a bill is advancing to extend those benefits to victims of domestic violence.
The House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee has approved House Bill 83, a bi-partisan measure sponsored by Reps. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville, and Samara Heavrin, R-Leitchfield.
“What this bill does is allow victims of domestic, dating, sexual and stalking violence who leave work, are unable to work, or separated from employment due to circumstances directly relating to that violence, to be eligible for unemployment benefits,” Kulkarni testified.
HB 83 would apply in cases where the victim fears violence at or on route to the workplace, she explained. A victim would also be eligible if he or she wishes to relocate to another area to avoid future violence or protect the safety and health of themselves, their family or co-workers.
Kulkarni cited several studies that show domestic violence is linked to unemployment, with 83% of domestic violence survivors reporting their ability to work was negatively impacted by an abusive partner. Kulkarni said this legislation is necessary because Kentucky has a rate of intimate partner violence higher than the national average.
HB 83 would require claimants to provide documentation to prove eligibility, which would remain confidential, Kulkarni noted. The documentation could be police records, court records, sworn statements or other documentation of violence provided by the victim, shelter workers, members of the clergy, medical professionals or other professionals from whom the victim has sought assistance.
Kulkarni said the fear of violence language in the bill means it must be something that is currently happening and can be proved with documentation and “not the fear of future violence or abuse.”
The measure now heads to the House floor.