Beshear, lawmakers announce $212 million for 6-month rebuild effort in eastern Kentucky

Andy Beshear
File Photo

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Gov. Andy Beshear joined Kentucky lawmakers Wednesday after calling for a special legislative session to bring relief to eastern Kentucky.

During this time, Beshear announced $212.7 million will be spent over the next six months in an effort to rebuild areas damaged by the floods that began July 26, according to a release by the governor’s office.

“Since the beginning of this natural disaster, I’ve been speaking with legislative leaders about the need for this special session. These conversations have been productive, because when it comes to helping Kentuckians during their time of need, our work isn’t bipartisan, it’s nonpartisan,” said Beshear. “To the people of eastern Kentucky: Today, we are once again showing you that we are with you and we’re going to be with you as long as it takes to rebuild.”

Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker David Osborne joined Beshear today and relayed the governor’s commitment to impacted families through Eastern Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies.

Stivers stated the nonpartisan effort is an initial step to “bolster local city and county government services impacted by the disaster” and that residents have their long-term commitment to address needs starting in January when they are in full session.

“Kentucky’s response to natural disasters like the July flooding in eastern Kentucky has been incredible, but we are entering a new phase of rebuilding and that will require a significant investment,” said Osborne. “We’ve been working closely with legislators in the areas impacted by the flooding, as well as local officials, the executive branch and our federal delegation, to identify the most effective way to help. Fortunately, we have a model that we know works. And for the first time in history we have the resources available in our budget reserve trust fund to commit to EKSAFE.”

The governor said the eastern Kentucky relief plan is similar to aid provided to help western Kentucky rebuild following last December’s tornadoes and includes:

  • $200 million from the Budget Reserve Trust Fund – the state’s $2.7 billion rainy day fund – to EKSAFE.
  • $115 million of that $200 million will be provided to the Department of Military Affairs Division of Emergency Management to provide financial support to cities, counties, school districts, state agencies and nonprofit or public utility service providers located in areas named in the Presidential Declaration of a Major Disaster. The use of this portion includes reimbursement for services, personnel and equipment provided during the response and recovery phases; cost of replacement or repair of publicly owned buildings and their contents; and advancement of funds to local governments, utilities and school districts awaiting insurance claims and Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance.
  • $45 million to be provided to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s highways budget for the state matching funds to pay for bridge and road repairs and replacement.
  • $40 million will be provided to the Department of Education for financial assistance to school districts to support repairs of school building facilities, additional transportation costs for displaced students and wrap-around services for schoolchildren and their families recovering from the impacts of the storms and flooding.
  • Nearly $12.7 million in fiscal year 2022-2023 from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is earmarked for EKSAFE. These funds will go toward water and sewer infrastructure projects, the building of replacement school facilities and housing sites not previously used, but now designed to mitigate the risk of future flooding.
  • Other assistance to impacted school districts.

The legislation will also provide the commissioner of education flexibility to waive up to 15 student attendance days through Jan. 20, 2023, due to the flooding. Beshear added that days ‘waived’ will count as days worked for school employees, and school districts will be able to modify school calendars and allow more employee emergency leave if needed due to the floods.

According to the governor’s office, the bill’s provisions will allow a school district to temporarily assign students to remote instruction due to uninhabitable school buildings. Up to 20 days of remote instruction may be permitted, with safeguards. It also expedites the approval process for school district facility plans to renovate, repair and replace flood-damaged school buildings, stated the release.

Finally, the bill would provide SEEK Funding Relief to both eastern Kentucky flood-affected areas and western Kentucky tornado-affected areas.

This bill also provides some added spending flexibility for the western Kentucky SAFE funds and extends the funding through June 30, 2026. So far, more than $67 million has been provided from this fund to help western Kentucky cities, counties, utilities and schools with the costs of recovery.

“In this session, we are taking care of our eastern Kentucky communities – just like we did for western Kentucky – while also making sure they have the flexibility needed as they continue to rebuild,” said Beshear. “After many dark days in this emergency response, we are seeing a little more hope in the path forward toward stabilization and rebuilding.”