(The Center Square) – The federal government has denied a request by the Beshear Administration to fund additional days of cleanup costs associated with last month’s tornadoes that killed 77 people in western and southern Kentucky.
However, Gov. Andy Beshear said the federal government agreed to adjust its 30 days of full coverage to any period within the first 120 days after the Dec. 10 storms.
“In other words, we can figure out the costliest 30-day period, and the federal government will cover everything on it,” Beshear told reporters Monday. “This is not everything we wanted. We are going to ask for something different, at least a little bit more help, but it is going to be significant.”
As Beshear plans to go back for more help, the state is working on its own package to help towns and counties recover from the storms that devastated such communities as Mayfield, Dawson Springs and Bowling Green.
Bills in both the state House and Senate call for $200 million in funding for those communities. The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee passed its chamber’s version Monday.
House Bill 5 includes $30 million to pay for extra educational costs from the storms. That includes providing tutoring and additional mental health services. Affected school districts also will be able to use the funding to cover transportation costs for students now displaced by the storm.
It also covers $15 million for better housing opportunities for families in need of shelter. That includes buying recreational vehicles for families to use as temporary housing.
“These resources are just the beginning, and we will continue the process throughout the session,” said HB5 sponsor state Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield, in a statement. “We are still firming up areas where we can deploy dollars to help local governments so that they can address many different manners such as losses of revenue and insurance shortfalls.”
Beshear said Monday that the bills lawmakers filed differed from the proposals lawmakers and his administration discussed. He did, though, express thanks that lawmakers agreed to extend his state of emergency in the affected communities until the end of the legislative session in mid-April.
The governor said he wants to see money available now for the communities to cover their share of the storm cleanup costs. The state has a $1.1 billion surplus from the last fiscal year that it can tap into to cover expenses.
Beshear said cleanup work will likely last until April in communities like Graves County, where Heath represents. That county alone is looking at costs of about $120 million. However, some of that will be covered by federal and state governments.
“We have an amazing budget right now,” the governor said. “We can cover that. It would bankrupt the cities and the counties.”