The federal government has now opened up disaster unemployment assistance (DUA) for those impacted by the devastating storms that tore through parts of Kentucky last week.
At a press briefing on Saturday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said this type of assistance is now open for those who have lost their employment or had their employment interrupted because of the storms who are not eligible for traditional unemployment insurance. This means it is largely focused on those who are self employed such as farmers and others.
To receive benefits, individuals must live in one of the designated impacted counties and is required to submit all necessary documents within 21 days of filing. Beshear noted there are many individuals who have lost many forms of identification and necessary documents in the storms and said the state will work hard to ensure those people can get what they need. Individuals also need to first apply for traditional UI and get denied before being eligible for the disaster assistance.
Individuals impacted should visit the Kentucky Career Center website to apply by the January 18 deadline.
As for other types of assistance, the governor said his administration’s Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund has raised $19 million through more than 105,000 donations.
The first approved expense out of that fund has been funeral expenses for those who were lost in the storms. Beshear said Saturday the threshold for those expenses has been increased to $10,000.
The next approved expense out of the fund, he said, is to provide extra help to uninsured home owners who lost everything.
These funds will provide 10% above and beyond what FEMA provides to these families and the state’s assistance will be used for expenses not covered by the FEMA funds. Beshear said he believes there are around 1,000-2,000 families in this category and added the funds will be extended to other groups as time goes on.
Meanwhile, the governor talked about Kentucky’s status when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first case of the Omicron variant confirmed in Kentucky Friday and traces have been found in Kenton, Campbell, and Fayette Counties and now seen in Jefferson County too through water testing.
Beshear said this variant is most transmissible in human history and he encouraged masking in schools and businesses.
Dr. Steven Stack emphasized one person with the omicron variant could spread the virus to as many as 18-20 individuals. That is compared to the delta variant where one person could infect up to five. Stack emphasized it is more important than ever that Kentucky takes what we have learned to minimize spread.
While infections are up, Stack said, hospitalizations haven’t spiked as much as expected in countries where this is variant has already spread rapidly. He said vaccines are still effective and the booster is beneficial and can provide against severe disease and death but omicron is so effective that break through cases will go up even among those who have received a booster. He also stated a prior COVID-19 infection is not effective against the omicron variant as many have felt protected against the virus after an infection of other variants.