New laws to tackle low labor force participation – The Advocate-Messenger

FIONA MORGAN

fiona@amnews.com

Businesses are still struggling to hire workers, and low labor force participation is one thing to blame. However, several laws have recently been passed to address this issue.

After this year’s legislative session ended in April, the Kentucky State House shared with Boyle County several pieces of legislation they’ve been working on that will hopefully increase workforce participation. work in the state.

Charles Aull (right) presents the new invoices. Scan the QR code to see the full House report on the legislation.

Amy Cloud of Kentucky Chamber of Commerce leaders and Charles Aull, senior policy analyst, presented in May on the changes.

The Kentucky Chamber released a study in 2021 on Kentucky’s workforce crisis, which took data over more than 20 years. Upon leaving, Kentucky ranked 48th out of 50 states in workforce participation at 56.3%. North Dakota had the highest turnout at 68.8%.

The study defines the labor force as “the sum of employed people and unemployed people who are actively seeking employment”. This does not include institutionalized or retired people, or those under working age.

Kentucky’s voter turnout is highest in counties with larger cities, and lowest in rural areas, especially East Kenowl. On each county’s turnout, Boyle County is in the second-lowest percentile range of 51.3% to 56.5%.

Jeff Jewel, Executive Director of the Danville Boyle County Chamber of Commerce, said, “Workforce development has become one of our biggest issues, from

childcare, in our case affordable housing, open jobs…”

While Kentucky had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the United States in 20 years, the The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the problem. In January 2000, 63.5% of adults in Kentucky were in the labor force. Just before the pandemic, it was 59.2%. In January 2021, it was 56.3%.

Aull explained that some of the reasons for the low turnout are the pension boom; the skills gap, where more jobs require education, credentials and degrees that many job seekers do not have; the opioid epidemic, which could be responsible for a loss of 1.3 to 3.1 percent of Kentucky’s workforce; a lack of access to child care services; fewer 16-19 year olds looking for work; and government assistance programs.

Among other major pieces of legislation that have been passed, House Bill (HB) 8 will phase out Kentucky’s income tax, which will hopefully attract more people to the state and ultimately the workforce. work, Aull said.

To help combat the epidemic of substance use disorders, Senate Bill 90 will give eligible individuals the option of receiving treatment for a behavioral health disorder instead of incarceration. Successful completion of the program will result in the dismissal of criminal charges. 10 counties were chosen for the pilot program.

One of the biggest barriers to employment, especially in Boyle County, is the lack of access to childcare services. For many parents, it is more financially feasible to stay home to care for their children than to work and spend a large portion of their income on childcare.

HB 499 encourages employers to provide a child care benefit to employees, and the state will match that benefit dollar for dollar. This bill is unique to Kentucky.

“We’re really excited about this bill,” Aull said. “A lot of states are watching us on this.”

Jewel said the Danville Chamber helped pass this bill, and Ault thanked them for their help.

“Having this strong commitment from all of the business communities, from all of our chambers across the state, is what got this bill across the finish line,” Aull said.

Another barrier related to child care is that child care is almost non-existent for second or third shift workers, which Aull said he hopes to help address in the future.

Unemployed workers in Kentucky spend an average of 18.5 weeks on unemployment insurance, which is much longer than the national average of about 14 weeks. HB 4 Reforms Kentucky Unemployment InsuranceThe Re-Employment and Workforce Development Support System. HB 144 freezes unemployment insurance tax at pre-pandemic rates, saving employers about $75 per employee in tax increases.

Other bills that will help Kentucky’s workforce are HB 708 (addressing benefit cliffs), HB 9 (helping early literacy), HB 10 (addressing shortage nurses), HB 1/HB 66 (requires all school districts to offer full-day kindergarten), and others.

Boyle and Casey County Representative Daniel Elliott voted yes on all of these bills.

Aull said there are about two open jobs available for every unemployed person in the state. Boyle County has well over 1,000 open jobs, but fewer than 500 people are classified as unemployed.

Concluding, Aull said local engagement is key to getting legislation passed. He encouraged people to get involved and contact their representatives.

Michael A. Bynum