On March 13, 2020, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced the state was taking aggressive action to protect seniors, to ensure wages are protected for first responders and medical personnel and by canceling in-person meetings for state boards and commissions while providing guidance on the proper use of teleconferencing.
“We are all in this together. We are going to get through this together. We are all on one team – Team Kentucky,” said Gov. Beshear. “This is a big test for Team Kentucky. This is us against the coronavirus and all we need from people is to be really good teammates and understand we all have to follow these guidelines and we all have to go through this disruption over the coming weeks.”
Senior centers to close
Gov. Beshear on Friday recommended the temporary closure of senior centers to help halt the spread of the virus for those most vulnerable.
“Area agencies have submitted plans already to modify their delivery of meals. We are going to do everything we can to deliver meals to these seniors at home or through drive-through stations at senior centers,” said Gov. Beshear. “Staff at the centers are prepared to deliver the meals or set up ways to provide them. The Department of Aging and Independent Living is able to transfer 19% of meal funds to a home delivery setting and I am going to use the state of emergency to fund whatever else we need to provide every meal. But, we also need everyone to try to help and check on a homebound senior.”
Wage replacement for first responders and medical personnel
Gov. Beshear announced effective immediately that Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance (KEMI) will provide wage replacement benefits for first responders and medical personnel who have been quarantined for COVID-19 as a result of their increased risk of exposure in the course of their work.
According to KRS 342.0011(1), workers’ compensation insurance benefits already included coverage for employees who contract a communicable disease due to the increased-risk nature of their employment, however KEMI’s action expands coverage benefits to include the quarantine period for first responders and medical personnel.
“While our first responders work hard to protect and care for our communities, KEMI will work hard to protect and care for first responders,” said Jon Stewart, KEMI president & CEO. “KEMI was created to meet the workers’ compensation insurance needs for Kentucky employers, and we are prepared to meet those needs.”
Teleconferencing for key state meetings
Gov. Beshear also announced new guidance that state boards and commissions cancel any scheduled in-person meetings, and instead use video teleconference technology. The new guidance provides that boards and commissions should provide the public with a link to access the meeting remotely.
The new guidance implements a 2018 change to the Open Meetings Act that allows public agencies to comply with the act using video teleconferencing technology.
“The boards and commissions protocol appears to meet the letter and spirit of the Open Meetings Act,” said attorney Jon Fleischaker, an expert on Open Records and Open Meetings laws. “By implementing these procedures, boards and commissions can continue to serve and inform the public without risking the spread of disease.”