Governor signs bill providing tornado relief funds, discusses public safety budget priorities

Following the devastating tornadoes that swept through Kentucky in December 2021, a bill providing millions of dollars in aid to local communities was signed into law Thursday.

House Bill 5, which saw final passage by the House and Senate Wednesday, provides $200 million to support communities in need in western Kentucky, earmarking money to provide educational services and temporary housing.

The resources will be available through the West Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies (SAFE) Fund. That fund will immediately appropriate $45 million, with $15 million allocated for temporary housing and $30 million to assist schools in their recovery and reconstruction.

Rep. Richard Heath of Graves County complimented Governor Beshear for being on the ground in his hometown of Mayfield within 36 hours of the devastating tornadoes and his quick response of signing this bill into law. “Natural disasters do not know the difference between Democrats and Republicans,” Heath said.

At the press conference Thursday, the governor also gave his final preview of his budget priorities ahead of his Budget Address Thursday night.  

Beshear has discussed the investments he is proposing for education, economic development and infrastructure, and health care this week.

His proposals in the area of public safety include:

  • $15,000 pay increase for Kentucky State Police, which is also in the House budget
  • Radio systems upgrade after 17 without an update
  • Stipend increase for firefighters
  • Hourly pay increase to sheriff offices for security guards at courthouses
  • Pay increases for Commonwealth and County Attorney offices as well as correction & parole officers
  • Revamping the corrections system, especially in rural counties that struggle to recruit staff and maintain facilities. Expansion of Little Sandy Correctional Complex; $170 million investment to improve medical facility and dorms.
  • A 10% raise for social workers and 350 additional staff to reduce case load by 25%. Loan forgiveness program; $3,000 per year for social workers (in line with nurses and teachers). 
  • 5% raise for state employees
  • Fully funds state employee pensions, and lessens long term liabilities

Stay tuned to The Bottom Line for coverage of the Budget Address and more updates throughout the budget process.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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