Lawmakers commit $213 million for flood recovery
Posted at 07:24 on Friday, August 26, 2022
A special legislative session began on Wednesday, with the executive and legislative branches of government agreeing to spend $212.7 million over the next six months to help rebuild communities devastated by deadly eastern Kentucky floods that began July 26.
A total of $200 million will be allocated from the Fiscal Reserve Trust Fund, part of the state’s so-called $2.7 billion Rainy Day Fund, to fund the Kentucky State Emergency Aid (EKSAF). It breaks down as follows:
• $115 million to the Department of Military Affairs Division of Emergency Management to provide financial support to cities, counties, school districts, state agencies, and nonprofit or utility service providers located in areas designated in the presidential declaration of a major disaster. This includes reimbursement for services, personnel and equipment provided during the response and recovery phases; cost of replacing or repairing public buildings and their contents; and advancing funds to local governments, utilities and school districts pending claims for insurance and disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
• $45 million to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s highway budget for state matching funds to pay for repairs and replacement of bridges and roads.
• $40 million to the Department of Education for financial assistance to school districts to support repairs to school buildings, additional transportation costs for displaced students, and supplementary services for school children and their families recovering from the effects of storms and floods.
In addition to the above, nearly $12.7 million in fiscal year 2022-23 from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, or ARPA, Fiscal Stimulus Fund is earmarked for EKSAFE. These funds will go towards water and sewage infrastructure projects, construction of replacement school facilities and housing sites that were previously unused but are now designed to mitigate the risk of future floods.
All refunds from FEMA would then go into the EKSAFE fund.
The legislation will also allow the Education Commissioner to waive up to 15 days of pupil attendance until January 20, 2023, due to flooding. Additionally, a school district may temporarily assign students to distance learning due to uninhabitable school buildings. Up to 20 days of distance learning may be authorized, with guarantees. It also expedites the approval process for school districts’ facility plans to renovate, repair and replace flood-damaged school buildings.
It also provides SEEK financial assistance to flood-affected areas of eastern Kentucky and tornado-affected areas of western Kentucky.
At a press conference after the House and Senate adjourned for the day, Governor Andy Beshear was joined by legislative leaders for a press conference in the Capitol rotunda.
“Since the onset of this natural disaster, I have spoken with legislative leaders about the need for this special session. These conversations have been productive because when it comes to helping Kentuckians in times of need, our work is not bipartisan, it’s nonpartisan,” said Beshear, a Democrat. “To the people of Eastern Kentucky, today we show you once again that we are with you and will be with you as long as it takes to rebuild.”
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said: ‘Our cities and counties are suffering in the worst possible way. Our collective, nonpartisan effort today is the first step in strengthening local government departments in the city and county affected by the flood disaster. You should know that you have our long-term commitment when we return to plenary in January to meet your long-term needs.
House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, added, “We have worked closely with lawmakers in flood-affected areas, as well as local authorities, 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 three men noted that the legislation is just to get things done until the 2023 regular session in January, when they will have a better idea of the full extent of the losses.
Lawmakers are expected to wrap up the session today.