Bills expand Military Family Assistance Trust Fund, ease licensing requirements for spouses and add seven new special military license plate options
FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 18, 2022) – Today, as part of Military Appreciation Month, Gov. Andy Beshear ceremonially signed into law four pieces of legislation recently passed by the General Assembly that support Kentucky’s military community and families.
He also recognized the ultimate sacrifice of Kentucky service members who lost their lives defending our state and country, and thanked Gold Star families for their service to our nation.
The Governor was joined by bill sponsors and members of Kentucky’s military community, including Deputy Adjutant General of Kentucky Brig. Gen. Brian Wertzler and Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Whitney Allen, to sign legislation that expands the Military Family Assistance Trust Fund, makes it easier for military spouses to obtain occupational licenses and adds seven active military unit license plates to the 28 current military-related plates.
The bills, which will become law on their effective dates, are:
House Bill 636, sponsored by Rep. Walker Thomas of Hopkinsville, expands the Military Family Assistance Trust Fund to provide money for necessary emergency expenses such as housing, utilities, groceries, health insurance co-pays and child care to all members of the Kentucky National Guard and reserve components who call Kentucky home. Changes were made to ensure all Kentucky National Guard members and reservists are eligible to receive funds. Previously, these service members could have been denied funds to help them overcome hardships due solely to their lack of federal active duty status.
“Supporting the readiness of our Guard members means being there for them when catastrophic events like flooding, fires, tornadoes impact their family and also being there when other emergency and medical hardships occur,” Gov. Beshear said. “I am proud to sign this bill, which helps us to provide more relief for our Guard members. They sacrifice so much to defend our state and country and they deserve to know that we will be here when they need it the most.”
The bill also allows trust fund money to no longer be restricted to expenditures in amounts up to $1,000 per situation and up to $10,000 per calendar year.
“I am proud to be the primary sponsor of HB 636 because of how important it is to lend support to our military when they need it the most,” Rep. Thomas said. “We are broadening the scope of the Military Family Assistance Trust Fund to include those who are serving stateside, and helping to cover the last dollar they need to get home for unexpected emergencies.”
“Military families make so many sacrifices in their service to our country, so I am definitely glad that the General Assembly recognizes that effort and adopted these new laws to ease some of the challenges they face,” Rep. Pamela Stevenson, who represents part of Jefferson County, said. “Taking care of families is what we're supposed to do as a legislature, and I believe this legislation will help us take that commitment to the next level.”
“We owe much to our service men and women because they have sacrificed so much for us and our safety,” Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty, who represents Butler and Muhlenberg counties, said. “Anything we can do to give back to those who have given everything for us will help make Kentucky more veteran and military friendly. HB 636 broadens the scope for those who qualify for the Military Family Assistance Trust Fund, to men and women who serve stateside. This fund is available for those who need to get back to their families if an emergency comes up, and with this new law we are ensuring they can make it back to their family when they need to the most.”
House Bill 91, sponsored by Rep. Danny Bentley of Russell, makes it easier for spouses of current members of the military to apply for regular and/or temporary occupational licenses, and to renew their current license, without having to pay dues or fees. As a result of this bill, military spouses, who often move multiple times across the country because of their spouses’ military service, can keep current their occupational licenses and keep their jobs and provide for their families without having to repeatedly bear the cost of financial licensure fees. The bill also requires a refund of dues or fees already paid through online applications.
“Military families make many sacrifices as they support their active-duty loved ones, but being able to do their job should not be one of them,” Gov. Beshear said. “This bill helps us prove we are committed to making Kentucky the most friendly state for military families by removing red tape and fees for military spouses who apply for their occupational license in Kentucky.”
“We know how difficult it can be for military families and the transition periods when they are stationed in a different state or country, so we thought it crucial we make that period as smooth as possible,” Rep. Bentley said. “With HB 91, military spouses with careers that require an occupational license can receive those licenses without payment of fees or dues. It is crucial the Kentucky legislature supports our military and their families, and this is just one way we are doing that.”
“One of the main goals of the Kentucky legislature has been to make Kentucky one of the most military-friendly states in the country,” Rep. C. Ed Massey, who represents part of Boone County, said. “We have put forward several bills which will make it easier for those moving here to get back to work, register for school, and much more. With HB 91, military spouses who have careers that require an occupational license to get that license without paying any fees or dues. I am proud to co-sponsor this crucial piece of legislation to give back to those who have given so much to us.”
“Military spouses are a large part of the reliability of our military forces, they are part of the main support system for service members, and we owe many thanks to them,” Rep. Myron Dossett, who represents part of Christian County, said. “It is important we do as much work to support the family’s transition period from one place to another, and HB 91 is one step the Kentucky General Assembly has taken to make it easier for our military families.”
“I am proud to support this crucial piece and legislation because of how important it will be to our military,” said Rep. Bobby McCool, who represents Johnson and Martin counties, as well as a portion of Pike County. “It will help military spouses receive their occupational licenses without fees and take away any worry they might have when trying to re-obtain their license. We are committed to making Kentucky a veteran and military-friendly state, and HB 91 is one way we are doing that.”
“We owe much to our military and their families because of the countless sacrifices they have made to serve this country,” Rep. Brandon Reed, who represents Green, Hart and LaRue counties, said. “When it comes time for a military family to move there is many barriers they encounter before they can get settled back into life, one of those being for spouses whose job requires an occupational license. To make it easier on them, HB 91 ensures they can receive those licenses without having to pay a fee or dues.”
“We must work to make Kentucky a top military-friendly state, and with HB 91, we are doing just that,” Rep. D.J. Johnson, who represents a portion of Daviess County, said. “This legislation will make it so military spouses whose career requires an occupational license, like nurses and doctors, do not have to pay any fees or dues associated with obtaining their license if their spouse is deployed and they are going with them. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this legislation because it is one small step in showing how important our military and their families are to Kentucky.”
“The transition periods many military families go through when moving to a different state or country can be very difficult,” Rep. Prunty said. “Here in Kentucky, we are doing what we can to make it easier for those families to get back to a normal life. Many times military spouses encounter a fee or dues when they go to get an occupational license in their new home, and with HB 91 we are ensuring those spouses need not pay those fees and get back to work.”
“As chair of the House Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee we work to bring forward crucial bills which will only benefit our military families,” Rep. Thomas said. “It is important we support the support systems of our service men and women. With this legislation we are making it easier for their spouses to put a freeze on their occupational licenses, and when they are able to use it again to obtain it without paying a fee.”
House Bill 213, sponsored by Rep. Johnson of Owensboro, allows for Kentucky’s participation in the national Occupational Therapy Compact and establishes the Occupational Therapy Compact Commission. These national compacts create effective licensure portability policies for military spouses and our communities by providing consistent rules for licensed members to work in other states. The compacts assist service members and their spouses to more easily transfer their license to a new state.
“We are proud to partner with the Department of Defense on this effort,” Gov. Beshear said. “Kentucky is now a member of seven of the eight DOD priority national licensing compacts, and I know members of the General Assembly are working to pass legislation next session to make sure Kentucky is participating in the Emergency Medical Services Compact.”
“I am proud to be the primary sponsor of HB 213 because it helps occupational therapists who are active-duty military and their spouses to receive an interstate compact license for occupational therapy,” Rep. Johnson said. “It also allows them to retain a home state during active duty, so they can retain their occupational license if they move back home, and if any action is taken against them, it is their home state only. We must do what we can to make moving periods easier for the military and their families, and those who have worked hard to obtain their occupational therapy license to keep it and allow them to practice in other states.”
Rep. Al Gentry of Louisville co-sponsored the legislation and said: “Every time I have left this country to travel abroad, I've never returned without that incredible feeling of privilege of living in a truly free country. And words cannot describe my utmost respect for the men and women who work to protect and preserve that freedom, as well as their spouses and family members who are certainly an integral part of that team. I’m proud to serve on the Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee, and any time I can help the team, I'm all in. These bills today are a reflection of that. Thank you to Gov. Beshear in signing this legislation. And thank you to all of you that serve, and have served, in keeping us all free.”
“HB 213 will help active military and their spouses whose are occupational therapists to obtain an interstate compact license,” said Rep. Kim Banta, who represents portions of Boone and Kenton counties. “It is crucial we do everything we can to support service men and women and their families. After the countless hours of hard work these spouses put into their career, it is important we ensure they can retain their license they have put many hours of hard work into.”
“The challenges of being a military family can certainly be made less burdensome when we make it easier for military spouses to practice occupational therapy to the full extent of their training,” said Rep. Buddy Wheatley, who represents part of Kenton County. “We should continue to look for ways to make Kentucky the most military-friendly state in the country. Telehealth access to occupational therapy is a true health care access expansion.”
“HB 213 will help those in our military and their spouses who are occupational therapists to retain their license if moved to another state through an interstate compact license,” said Rep. Scott Lewis, who represents Hancock and Ohio counties, as well as a portion of Daviess County. “It is crucial we support this group of people because they help those who are trying to get back their normal lives and anything we can do to help them is crucial. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this legislation and I am excited to see the benefits our military will be receiving from it.”
House Bill 465, sponsored by Rep. Dossett of Pembroke, adds specialty military unit license plates for owners and lessees of motor vehicles, motorcycles and recreational vehicles who are associated with the following seven historically significant active military units (below) and sets forth requirements for obtaining a plate:
- The V Corps;
- The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault);
- The 5th Special Forces Group;
- The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment;
- The United States Army Human Resources Command;
- The United States Army Recruiting Command; and
- The United States Army Cadet Command.
The Governor noted this bill adds to the 28 other military and veteran related vehicle plates that are available through the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
“Kentucky is enormously proud of our military members, and this bill makes sure we not only say it but show it,” Gov. Beshear said. “Adding these military units is a significant way to express our thanks and gratitude for those active-duty service members and their families who have served at these unit’s headquarters at Fort Campbell or Fort Knox.”
“It is crucial we do what we can to make Kentucky one of the most veteran-friendly states in the country,” Rep. Dossett said. “One way we are doing that is through HB 465, which creates new license plates commemorating the service of Kentucky’s most significant active military units. This gives the opportunity to those who have served in these units to show their pride for their service and for their country.”
“Kentucky is home to many significant active military units, and it is important for us to recognize and honor those who serve in those units,” said Rep. Kim King, who represents Mercer and Washington counties and a portion of Jessamine County. “The creation of a new license plate that includes which unit they have served, is just one way we are honoring our military. It gives these women, men and families the opportunity show pride in their service every day.”
“Kentucky has always played an outsized role when it comes to our nation’s armed forces, and the General Assembly has worked hard over the years to help those brave men and women who make this possible,” said Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, who represents part of Fayette County. “I am proud to support all of these new laws, which will be a big help for many military families. They certainly deserve it.”
"It is important for us to honor those who have served in Kentucky’s active military units, and by giving them the opportunity to get a license plate with their unit is one way they can show pride for their service," Rep. Phillip Pratt of Georgetown. "I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this legislation because it shows our appreciation for our Kentucky military and the hard work and selfless service they put forward every day.”
On March 29, Gov. Beshear also signed House Bill 345, which improves leave benefits for state employees who serve in the military. Under the new law, a state employee who is a member of the military and is physically disabled due to their active-duty military service or training can now receive up to six months of authorized leave. This leave provides those serving their country more security as they recover from physical injuries incurred in military service.