Kentucky House passes bill to tighten public benefits rules

Supporters say the measure is designed to steer more people into self-sufficiency

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Sweeping legislation to tighten rules for public assistance with the goal of steering more people into self-sufficiency sped through the Republican-dominated Kentucky House on Thursday.

The measure — sponsored by the chamber’s top two leaders — emerged for House action less than an hour after a revised version was reviewed in committee. After a bitter partisan debate, the proposal won 71-26 House passage, sending the legislation to the GOP-led Senate.

The bill’s opponents warned it would punish low-income Kentuckians in a state plagued by pockets of poverty and stubbornly high unemployment. One urban Democratic lawmaker cited statistics showing the importance of public food and health care assistance in rural, GOP-leaning areas.

Speaker Pro Tem David Meade countered that critics were “fear mongering,” as supporters said that people in need — including children, the elderly and single moms — would not lose benefits.

“The only way that you would lose benefits in this bill is that you were either doing something that is illegal or you are an able-bodied adult with no dependents that is not willing to participate in the work programs,” Meade said.

Meade is sponsoring the bill along with House Speaker David Osborne.

The legislation is House Bill 7.

 

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