Beshear Updates Mayors on Water, Broadband, COVID

Governor Andy Beshear informed mayors on Wednesday that dozens of communities have applied for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds set aside for water projects in Kentucky. Also, ARPA broadband project applications will become public next week, and COVID-19 statistics are moving in the “right direction.”

Beshear, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray, and State Budget Director John Hicks updated mayors on infrastructure projects, deadlines, and their hope for legislation to promote more economic development.

Gray said the Department for Local Government (DLG) received 514 applications for $700 million in water and wastewater projects. The General Assembly allocated $250 million in ARPA funds for these projects. Cities have until November 19 to file for the funding. Gray said the state has already approved 58 projects.

Hicks updated the state’s efforts to bring broadband into unserved and underserved areas of the commonwealth. A request for proposals (RFP) deadline has passed, and the state will make applications public next week. Beshear warned local officials to expect some internet providers to use that information to challenge applications, and he asked mayors to be prepared to show that the areas in question are unserved or underserved.

Beshear continued to tout the BlueOval project near Elizabethtown and repeated his call for mayors to look for potential economic development sites in their community. The governor said he would ask local leaders for help with proposed legislation to create a fund to develop the next generation of economic development sites and expand and improve existing sites. Beshear insisted that effort is needed because the Ford battery plant will need a supply chain that currently does not exist in the United States.

Beshear also commented on the current pandemic situation. He said COVID-19 numbers are “moving in the right direction.” The approximately 10,000 coronavirus cases reported last week were far fewer than the roughly 30,000 cases three weeks prior. The state’s positivity rate declined from 9.13% to 5.66%, and hospitalizations, patients in intensive care units, and the number of people on a ventilator decreased as well.

“What it says is if we can just keep fighting a little longer, we can get to a place as safe as we were in part of the summer,” said Beshear. The governor said he expects to draw down the National Guard by the first of December if numbers remain at their current level.

Beshear listed four items as areas of focus regarding COVID-19:

  • Get more citizens vaccinated;
  • Urge those eligible to receive boosters;
  • Urge children to get vaccinated once treatment is approved; and
  • Continue to caution against large indoor gatherings.