Governor Andy Beshear signed the flood relief bill Friday afternoon after legislators passed the measure on the final day of the special session. House Bill 1 appropriates $212.7 million for cities, counties, nonprofits, public utilities, state agencies, and school districts within the 13 counties President Joe Biden declared federal disaster areas after heavy rain and severe storms hit in July. The measure also amends the western Kentucky tornado relief bill legislators passed in the 2022 session to extend funding through June 30, 2026 ‒ three years longer than initially approved. You can read more about the bill here.
Legislators made a slight change to the measure on Friday before giving it final passage. They added language at the request of the governor’s office that clarified road money included in the bill is only for repairs and projects not already federally funded.
Representative John Blanton (R-Salyersville) sponsored the measure, which created the Eastern Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies (EKSAFE) fund. He explained on the House floor that the funding is only the beginning. “This is the first step,” he said. “We’ve got to come back. We’ve got to see what the needs are because the needs are changing constantly.”
He also clarified that organizations could not use EKSAFE funds for projects already paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “We want to maximize the drawdown of federal dollars through FEMA before we access our money,” Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) told members of his chamber. “We want FEMA to step up first to do the individual assistance, and then we can follow. Because if we put ourselves in the shoes of FEMA and become first priority, we lose access to some of those dollars.”
Stivers said he also wanted to clear up what he called “misinformation” about the bill. Both he and Blanton told legislators money allocated for emergency management could be used for temporary accommodations. “I want to stress that there is money to provide for intermediate housing,” Blanton stated. “If there is an immediate need, that’s what we’re meeting now until we come back in January.”
The House passed the bill unanimously while the Senate approved the measure 35-1, and legislative leadership joined the governor for the afternoon bill signing in the Capitol Rotunda. The legislature passed the bill in just three days – instead of the usual five – by introducing and reading identical measures in both chambers.