First 100 Days: Just Transition & Climate Actions & Implications for KY | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

First 100 Days: Just Transition & Climate Actions & Implications for KY

KFTC chairperson met with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in January 2019, just days after she was sworn into office.

An update on (mostly) federal Just Transition and Climate actions in the first 100 days, and the implications for Kentucky

This post will be updated weekly throughout the first 100 days of the Biden Administration.

 A collection of all previous updates can be viewed here.

1. COVID Relief Bill advances in the US House

On February 23rd, KFTC issued the following statement urging immediate relief and a fundamental restructuring of our economy:

"Kentuckians stand to benefit as much or more than residents of any other state from a package of federal COVID relief measures that cleared the U.S. House Budget Committee yesterday, a panel chaired by Democratic Congressperson Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville. 

Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, a statewide grassroots social justice organization, applauds Rep. Yarmuth’s leadership on the bill. And we urge other members of Congress, including Kentucky’s GOP senators and representatives, to do their jobs by passing the bill immediately and delivering urgently needed relief to Kentuckians and all Americans. 

“This pandemic has exaggerated the inequities in our economy and society, and this relief package is the least Congress should do. It’s a necessary band-aid,” noted KFTC Chairperson Cassia Herron. “Going forward, we don’t just need relief. We need Black and brown Americans and women, immigrants and low-paid workers leading the change to create a democratic, shared economy.”

The COVID relief bill passed by the U.S. House Budget Committee today contains important seeds of the kinds of long-term changes that are needed. For example:

$15 minimum wage. The House bill includes a gradual increase in the minimum wage to $15 / hour. Kentucky has the highest share of workers earning the minimum wage of any state. While the cities of Louisville and Lexington both previously voted to raise minimum wages for workers in their communities, those local ordinances were later overturned. Meanwhile, many state incentives and corporate tax breaks approved by our state legislators – including the absurdly low tax rate just approved for horse-racing slot machines – are subsidizing the creation of jobs that fall far short of providing the income necessary for people to be able to care for their families. Kentuckians need the federal government to step in and raise the minimum wage.

Child credit of up to $3,600 per young child: The bill contains a fully refundable tax credit of up to $3,600 per child for children up to 6 years old and $3,000 for children between 6 and 17. In 2021, this credit would be paid to families on a monthly basis, beginning in the summer. The current federal tax code contains a child credit of $2,000. However, many low-income families - including half of all Black and Latino children and half of all rural children - do not receive the full credit because their families earn too little. The House proposal makes the full amount available to all but the very highest income families. In Kentucky, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 421,000 children under the age of 17 are not eligible for the full $2,000 credit, and would benefit under the new proposal.

Expands the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-paid adults who are not raising children in their home. The House plan triples from $530 to $1,500 the Earned Income Tax Credit for eligible low-paid workers who are not raising children. This provision affects workers earning less than $21,000 a year. It also expands eligibility to adults aged 19-24 who are not full time students, and workers over the age of 65.

$1,400 Survival Checks. The House plan sends survival checks worth $1,400 to individuals who make up to $75,000 a year or who earn less than $150,000 as a couple. This one-time payment doesn’t go far enough to help people keep shelter over their heads and food on their tables. But it is an important acknowledgement from the federal government that one of the most effective ways to help people facing economic hardship is to provide direct cash assistance without strings. 

Unemployment Insurance. The House plan extends $400 a week in federal unemployment benefits through the end of August 2021. This is down from $600 a week in the first COVID relief bill passed in May 2020. But current federal unemployment benefits are set to expire March 14, 2021. 

Immigrant Inclusion in Survival ChecksThe House plan includes survival checks for some mixed status families, so families with 2.2 million U.S. citizen children can get relief, even if the parents are not documented. However, 9.3 million immigrant taxpayers with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, including millions of essential workers, continue to be left out of survival checks, yet again. 

Federal Aid to State and Local Governments: The package includes $350 billion in federal aid to state and local governments to help shore up the budgets of those governments and prevent layoffs of public workers. Kentucky has already seen a significant decline in public jobs due to the pandemic. A new analysis by the Washington Post shows that state government jobs in Kentucky declined by 12 percent in 2020. As new federal funds begin to flow to states, counties and cities, Kentuckians will need be organized and relentless in demanding that these resources be invested in ways that benefit our communities, address inequality, and repair harm.

Expansion of health care to millions of Americans: The package increases the size of federal health care subsidies available to people who currently qualify (folks earning between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty limit) under the Affordable Care Act. And it makes federal subsidies available for the first time to 2.6 million people who currently make too much money to qualify but still can't afford premiums.

KFTC members look to Congressman Yarmuth and our other members of Congress to follow the lead of their BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) colleagues and pass big bold legislation like the THRIVE (Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy) agenda and Breathe Act that provide states and local governments with incentives to build inclusive and generative local economies."

2. Together with the Rural Power Coalition, KFTC calls on Congress to transform rural electric cooperatives and the communities they serve

On February 23rd, KFTC joined with allies in the Rural Power Coalition to send a letter to Congress signed by 100 organizations across the US. The letter calls on Congress to support and pass a 7-part agenda to transform rural electric cooperatives and the communities they serve, based on shared principles of self-determination, justice, environmental stewardship, and civil and human rights. The platform includes:

 

1. An immediate moratorium on utility shutoffs, deposits, customer late fees, and negative credit reporting through the duration of the crisis. Assure flexible, budget billing arrangements on electricity and broadband service, so that debt is not accruing for member-owners that cannot afford it.

 

2. Add at least $17 billion to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for bill relief (over 10 times more than in the CARES Act), and assure the Department of Health & Human Services engages National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) members to help them efficiently refer members to access that bill relief.

 

3. $100 billion in appropriations for federally insured Hardship Loans from the Rural Utilities Service along with conditions for loan forgiveness akin to those offered in the CARES Act through the Small Business Administration. These conditions would facilitate the retirement of all coal plants currently in operation and potentially all outstanding electric cooperative debt in exchange for new investment in clean energy, distributed energy resources, energy efficiency, high speed broadband, storage, and electric transportation with new loans at U.S. Treasury rates.

 

4. Treat electric cooperatives fairly in reform of renewable energy tax credits so that they receive the same vital option for direct payment that is afforded to every other type of utility in The Moving Forward Act passed by the House.

 

5. Higher authorization for the Rural Utilities Service Treasury Rate Loan program, which also capitalizes the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Loan Program (EECLP).

 

6. A large increase in appropriated funding for the Rural Cooperative Development Grants (RCDG), Rural Economic Development Loans and Grants (REDL&G), Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP).

 

7. Require national implementation of inclusive tariffs for site-specific utility investments that also provide a path to ownership for participating customers, such as Pay As You Save financing programs already demonstrated by more than a dozen electric cooperatives in Kansas, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.


3. LG&E / KU Rate Case - Action needed!

While these and other important policies are being considered in Washington DC, Kentuckians also have our hands full trying to protect and advance Just Transition policies in our state legislature and in the Kentucky Public Service Commission. Here's just one example:


Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities are trying to raise rates - again - and rig the rules to destroy the future of rooftop solar in Kentucky. 

Right now is an important time to send written comments against this plan to the Kentucky Public Service Commission.


Here’s how to submit your comment. 


This link takes you to an information page with details about the proposal, suggested talking points, and information about how to email or mail your comments to the PSC.


KFTC urges every LG&E / KU to take a few moments to write your own personal message, even if it’s brief, by March 15th. PSC commissioners have told us they are most persuaded by personal messages from ratepayers. It’s fine to copy and paste some of the suggested talking points if you like.