A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky continues to see sky-high unemployment claims as pandemic downturn drags on

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service More than 800,000 Kentuckians have filed for unemployment insurance since the start of the new coronavirus pandemic, and experts warn the economic downturn will likely have ripple effects that could last for years. Ashley Spalding, research director with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy says a major issue for many states is the lack of a rainy day fund,...

Protests in Kentucky, around nation highlight frustration over lack of accountability

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Protests in Louisville and Lexington over the weekend highlight growing public frustration with a system that offers little accountability to those in power. The killings of unarmed black citizens across the country, including Breonna Taylor, who was asleep at her home in Louisville in mid-March when she was killed, have sparked public outrage over the inertia...

Reviving a depression-era program could help put young Kentuckians work in time of national crisis

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service The nation’s youth unemployment rate is the highest it’s been since the Great Depression, and some are calling for creating a new Civilian Conservation Corps to help rebuild the country’s parks and public lands at a time of national crisis. Unemployment in the Commonwealth has soared to 15.4% amid the coronavirus pandemic. And Ward Wilson, executive...

Kentucky is one of 19 states that still allows corporal punishment in schools, but that could soon change

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service State lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban spanking in schools. Kentucky is one of 19 states that continue to allow corporal punishment. Glasgow family court judge Mica Wood Pence is responsible for placing children in foster care. She said when children have experienced physical violence in the home, hitting or spanking in school can do serious damage...

New Interact for Health poll indicates an uptick in misuse of prescription pain medication in Kentucky

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service More Kentuckians report knowing someone who is misusing prescription pain medication, according to a new poll. Colleen Desmond, a researcher at Interact for Health, the group that conducted the survey, said the findings indicate prescription drug misuse continues to be a persistent problem statewide, despite the fact that overdose deaths have dropped. The 2019...

Don’t have a passport? You’ll need a ‘Real ID’ to fly when new identification rules take effect in October

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service By this fall, Americans who don’t have either one of the new “REAL IDs” or a valid passport won’t be able to fly or to visit military bases and federal facilities. Kentucky is urging its residents to take the change seriously. Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, following recommendations from the 9/11 Commission to set higher standards...

Kentucky lawmakers considering bill to ban death for penalty for defendants suffering from mental illness

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Kentucky lawmakers are considering a bill that would prevent seriously mentally ill defendants from receiving the death penalty. A handful of other states, including Ohio, Virginia and Indiana, recently have pushed similar legislation. Patrick Delahanty, director of advocacy for the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, says the bill does not exclude...

House bill would tax e-cigarettes, currently the only tobacco products not subject to state excise tax

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Kentucky lawmakers are considering putting an excise tax on e-cigarettes sold in the Commonwealth. The tax would be equal to the current tax on traditional cigarettes, which is $1.10 per pack. State Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, the bill’s primary sponsor, said his colleagues are struggling to come up with a state budget amid the worst projected revenue...

Kentucky could look to neighboring West Virginia for lessons on funding public pension system

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service As state lawmakers continue to grapple with funding teacher pensions, some say lessons from neighboring West Virginia can offer insight into whether or not Kentucky should switch to a defined-contribution retirement plan for teachers or uphold its public pension system. There are more than 40,000 public school teachers in Kentucky. (Image from Adobe Stock, via...

Advocates to rally at state capitol this week for policies benefitting children and families

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Advocates for children will gather in Frankfort this week to push for policies that benefit children and families. On Thursday, hundreds are expected to rally to urge legislators to consider boosting child-care assistance and enact a state-level refundable Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families, among other reforms. Whitley County High School senior...

Rapid confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominees reshaping judicial branch

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Over the past few years, the U.S. Senate has confirmed 185 of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, the majority of whom have a conservative track record. Along with two Supreme Court justices, senators have confirmed 50 circuit court and 133 district court judges. Supreme Court, court of appeals and district court judges are nominated by the president...

Black Lung Trust Fund gets one-year boost from higher excise tax, but experts say more is needed

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Congress has voted to increase the excise tax levied on coal companies that provides cash flow for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. But advocates for miners who need the money say the one-year increase isn’t enough to keep the fund from drying up. The higher excise tax expires December 31. Rebecca Shelton, coordinator of policy and organizing at the...

New AARP survey shows technology causing more people to be susceptible to holiday scams

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Holiday scams aren’t what they used be. Technology is making fraud harder to spot, and according to a new survey by AARP, nearly 20% of participants failed a simple quiz designed to test their ability to recognize the red flags of holiday scams. Nearly 70% of U.S. adults plan to buy gift cards this holiday season. But according to a new study by AARP, scammers...

State Representative Kim Moser files bill to create statewide mental health first aid training program

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service A House Republican from Taylor Mill has pre-filed a bill that would create a statewide Mental Health First Aid Training Program. State Rep. Kim Moser says the idea is to increase knowledge about the nature of depression and substance abuse disorders, reduce stigma and empower communities to properly help someone experiencing a mental health crisis. According to...

Ky. sees new barriers to abortion after Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge to 2017 ultrasound act

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Advocates for reproductive rights say women in Kentucky face yet another obstacle to receiving an abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal this week to hear a legal challenge to a state law. The 2017 Kentucky Ultrasound Informed Consent Act mandates that doctors perform an ultrasound on women seeking an abortion and describe its images in detail....

As open enrollment period winds down, Kentucky assisters ready to help applicants navigate system

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Open enrollment for health coverage through healthcare.gov ends next week, and application assisters say they are still available to help residents figure out what plans are right for them. Georgia Funk is outreach and enrollment coordinator at Big Sandy Health Care in Pikeville. She says many eastern Kentucky residents are still not aware they can enroll. Across...

New report indicates retirement security is critical for Commonwealth to hire quality teachers

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Defined benefit pensions are a major factor for recruiting and retaining new teachers in the Commonwealth, and according to new research by the National Institute on Retirement Security, more than 96% of teachers say whittling away pensions would drastically affect the state’s ability to attract new teachers to the profession. Laura Adams is a fourth-generation...

With sex education on decline, traveling ‘Sexy Sex Ed’ workshop aims to educate Appalachian youth

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Access to sex education is on the decline in rural areas, but one eastern Kentucky native aims to fill the knowledge gap with a traveling free sex education workshop called Sexy Sex Ed. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2006, 71% of rural women were taught about birth control as an option to prevent pregnancy. That number shrunk to 48% by 2013. Tanya Turner,...

Pikeville site one of 19 included in list of proposed abandoned coal mine redevelopment projects

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service A coalition of groups in central Appalachia has identified projects that would clean up and re-purpose 19 abandoned coal-mine sites in four states. Rebecca Shelton, coordinator of policy and organizing at the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, explains the Abandoned Mine Land pilot program is funded with federal grant money that’s being given to qualifying...

Report shows many Kentuckians default early on student loans, especially those with low balances

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Nearly 25% of federal student loan borrowers default within five years of starting the repayment process, according to a new report by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Most of those borrowers showed signs of financial distress almost immediately when it came time to start repaying their student loan debt, the report says. Each year, more than 1 million people default...