FRANKFORT

It may have been more than 160 years ago that Charles Dickens wrote “A Tale of Two Cities,” but the novel’s well-known opening line — “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” — seems especially relevant today, given what we have lived through this month.

We all know the challenges we’ve faced both here in Kentucky and around the world. At the same time, we have also seen countless examples of others reaching out to help, so to speak, even as we do what we can to stay apart.

Our healthcare workers and first responders deserve considerable credit for what they have done to keep us well, while our teachers and school staffs are to be commended for making sure our children are still able to learn and have access to nutritional food while they are at home.

Those running our grocery stores and restaurants have overcome their own challenges to continue serving us, and our small businesses and civic and charitable organizations have found ways to help many of us navigate situations our country hasn’t seen since the days of World War II and the Great Depression.

I want to thank everyone who has gone above and beyond for our community — and I appreciate the willingness of so many to stay home and, when out, to practice social distancing and good hand washing to limit the spread of this illness.

Governor Andy Beshear and his administration have kept us informed and taken the tough but necessary steps needed to “flatten the curve” so that our healthcare system can weather the growing number of COVID-19 cases, which as of Monday morning numbered more than 100.

The state has also eased rules to accommodate those who have lost their jobs as a result of the various closures and now qualify for such programs as Medicaid and unemployment insurance.

On Thursday, the House moved two significant bills forward that will build on this relief. Senate Bill 177 would give our schools the flexibility they need to finish the school year as they and their students cope with the prolonged absence, and Senate Bill 150 would do something similar in other areas so Governor Beshear and health officials have more authority to do what is necessary to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Beshear had promised to call the General Assembly back into special session to address the budget and emergency issues, but some legislative leaders worried it might not include everything they wanted to address.

This could explain why we passed Senate Bill 2, which will make sure everyone has a photo ID in order to vote. Hopefully at some point we will be able to extend the time in which people can vote and make it easier to do absentee voting.

The primary work for the rest of this session will be to agree on the Executive Branch budget. The Senate budget was very different from the House version, so leadership will be working tirelessly on a compromise that the two chambers will consider late this week. We must get a budget passed in time that respects the April 15th deadline.

I will of course update you further on what develops, but for now, here are some important websites and phone numbers you may need. To access the state’s public-assistance programs, please visit https://benefind.ky.gov or call 1-855-306-8959. For Medicaid, the customer-service line is 855-459-6328, and the website is https://healthbenefitexchange.ky.gov.

For unemployment insurance, the website is https://kcc.ky.gov/, while the main number for claimants is 502-564-2900. Governor Beshear has also announced more regional phone numbers.

Be aware that, due to the sudden spike in unemployment payments, applications are being accepted this week on a staggered basis based on last name. Each day is focused on several letters through Friday, and if you miss your day, you can use Friday as well.

This information and more can be found on a new website the administration has created as a single source listing every state order and action. That website is https://governor.ky.gov/covid19.

Finally, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns about these or other legislative issues. My email is Wilson.Stone@lrc.ky.gov, and the toll-free message line for all legislators is 1-800-372-7181.

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