State provides $212 million in flood relief funds during special legislative session

UPDATED: Lawmakers concluded their three-day special session to provide financial relief to counties impacted by flooding in eastern Kentucky and the bill was signed by the governor Friday afternoon.

Gov. Andy Beshear called the General Assembly back to Frankfort for a special session starting Wednesday following conversations and an agreement on a legislative package to provide state funds to help rebuild schools, roads, bridges, water and sewer infrastructure, and more in counties impacted by devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky.

Both the House and Senate gave final passage to House Bill 1 Friday with minor language changes related to transportation projects so the state will qualify for the federal match for spending on those projects.

The flood relief package:

  • Establishes the Eastern Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies fund (EKSAFE)
  • Appropriates $200m from the state’s Budget Reserve Trust Fund to EKSAFE
    • $75m for “financial assistance” in accordance with Section 1 of the Act
    • $40m for advances to “school districts and nonprofit or public utility service providers”
    • $40m for school districts
    • $45m for infrastructure (to KYTC)
  • Appropriates $12.6m in ARPA funds (State Fiscal Recovery Fund) to EKSAFE for water and sewer infrastructure repairs related to the flooding
  • Addresses issues with attendance days requirements, instructional hours, and remote learning for students in districts impacted by the flooding

An amendment was filed to Senate Bill 1, the companion bill filed and heard to help move the process along, by Sen. Brandon Smith that would have added $50 million to go toward housing, but was not considered. House Bill 1 sponsor, Rep. John Blanton, said the legislation passed by the General Assembly contains $75 million that can be used for temporary housing to get roofs over people’s heads before the winter.

Blanton also stated there will be more needs in eastern Kentucky that will be addressed when the General Assembly reconvenes for the 2023 session in January as needs continue, but is thankful for the bill helping provide immediate assistance.

Many legislators from the region spoke on the floor detailing personal stories they have heard and witnessed and expressed their gratitude for the relief package.

The bill passed through the House unanimously and the Senate voted 35-1 to pass.

Following passage of the bill, Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts released a statement:

“The Kentucky Chamber commends the General Assembly and the Governor on the passage of the EKSAFE bill providing much-needed resources for those impacted by the devastating flooding in Eastern Kentucky. The Chamber is committed to supporting the long-term recovery of Eastern Kentucky and applauds lawmakers for this swift action to ensure assistance to our fellow Kentuckians. It is in times like this, Kentucky shows that we stand united.”

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Jacqueline Pitts
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