House Committee Clears Tornado Recovery Bill

One month after deadly tornadoes tore a path of destruction through western Kentucky, the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee passed a $200 million aid package on Monday.

House Bill 5 creates the West Kentucky State Aid for Emergencies (SAFE) fund and allocates $200 million to help those in the path of the December 10 deadly tornadoes. While $155 million will become available as needs are identified, legislators voted to immediately allocate $30 million to support damaged schools and $15 million to house those impacted.

Representative Richard Heath (R-Mayfield) sponsored House Bill 5. Senator Jason Howell (R-Murray) introduced a companion bill, Senate Bill 5. Heath said, “It’s going to take a while to get back to normal.” He added that school resumed in Mayfield today.

Many children who lost their homes live in temporary housing outside the district. House Bill 5 would help cover costs schools must pay to get children back into the classroom. “I just learned over the weekend that there is a law in place that requires the school districts to transport those children back to Mayfield or Graves County schools,” he said, “and this bill includes the cost of transportation that those school districts will incur.”

Heath spoke about storm survivors’ mental health, pointing to money the bill allocates for counseling. “My youngest granddaughter is in kindergarten, and she is drawing pictures of tornadoes,” Heath told the committee. “It’s amazing what they pick up on.”

Representative Myron Dossett (R-Pembroke) serves on the committee. He survived the storms and applauded the legislative oversight of future spending and commented on the importance of mental health funding. “My granddaughter, over the weekend, while the weather was coming in on Saturday, was looking at the Weather Channel and saw shades of red, and her question over and over again was, ‘Is that another storm coming?’ So, I’m very appreciative of that.”

The Kentucky League of Cities insures cities in the storm’s path and has been on the ground assisting local officials in the recovery process since December 10.

Committee members unanimously approved House Bill 5. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.