Legislation pre-filed to help domestic violence victims get benefits

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Nima Kulkarni

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Looking to give more financial stability to victims of domestic violence and similar abuse, state Rep. Nima Kulkarni has pre-filed to make them eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

“There are countless victims who remain vulnerable after they try to leave because their abuser knows where and when they work,” said Rep. Kulkarni, who represents the 40th House District in Jefferson County and is a practicing attorney in Louisville.  “My legislation would empower these victims by adding protections that give them a better chance to permanently leave abusive situations.”

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Mary Savage, the legal counsel for the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence, called this issue “hugely important for survivors of domestic and dating violence. There are so many barriers thrown up against people experiencing intimate partner violence, and these may easily result in the survivor having no choice but to return to, or be drawn back into, that abusive relationship.”

Savage noted abusers often try to sabotage their victim’s employment, and that victims often need to miss work for counseling, court proceedings or doctor appointments.  “This bill would create much needed protections for workers and bring down some of those barriers, so they can move on with their lives and become independent of that abusive partner,” she said.

Kulkarni’s bill to expand unemployment-insurance eligibility would apply to those who leave or are unable to work because of domestic violence and abuse, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.

The victims would also be eligible if they feared traveling to and from work, if they wish to move to another area to avoid the abuser or if they believe they need to leave the workplace to protect their own safety or others.

The bill sets verification standards, which would require the victims to provide evidence from court or police records or sworn statements from themselves, domestic-violence shelter employees, the clergy or other professionals who helped the victim.

Her bill also would call on state unemployment insurance employees to receive training to handle such claims.

“I’m pre-filing this bill now because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and because Kentucky has been at the forefront of helping those abused in these types of cases,” Rep. Kulkarni said.  “Making this change would add to that record and would mean so much to so many who may feel they have nowhere else to turn.”

Her bill, which is attached, will be considered during the General Assembly’s 2021 Regular Session, which starts in January.