Legislators Drafting Flood-Recovery Bill

As the rescue and cleanup efforts continue in eastern Kentucky, legislators have started drafting a bill to provide vital funds and services. Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said on Wednesday that leadership discussed a possible special session with Governor Andy Beshear, but it is still too early for such a move. “Right now, there’s no way to know what the dollar amount of the damage is,” he told the media at an afternoon news conference.

Stivers and other legislators representing flood-damaged areas have been working to help victims and recovery crews. “I have seen things that I don’t think grown adults should see,” remarked Senator Brandon Smith (R-Hazard). “I don’t know how some of these families will recover.” He added that legislators will also need to discuss mental health needs.

Stivers remarked that the damage is hard to comprehend until you see it. “This is just the beginning of the recovery,” he warned. “You’re probably going to hear that the overall damage far exceeds any natural disaster we’ve had.”

Beshear commented on the massive damage to the region’s infrastructure. “It’s going to take significant time and significant dollars to restore what was destroyed.”

The governor’s Wednesday update provided a better idea of the death toll, currently at 37. “I think it will rise by at least a couple,” he added. Kentucky State Police (KSP) conducted more than 1,000 wellness checks on reported missing persons and only three women remain unaccounted for.

Many people remain trapped without electricity or useable water as extreme heat moved into the region. Local officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) opened cooling centers in various impacted areas.

Secretary of State Michael Adams waived certificate of authority requirements for out-of-state businesses helping with relief and recovery. The exemption allows businesses to work in the impacted areas for 30 days.

People who want to volunteer to help the recovery effort should contact emergency operations centers in the various regions. Stivers said the area still needs cleaning supplies, toiletries, nonperishable food items, and water. You can learn more about ways to help and access resources for flood victims at the state’s flood resources web page.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised the response during a speech Wednesday afternoon on the Senate floor. “All across eastern Kentucky, emergency crews are making a herculean effort to restore access to power, roads, and running water,” he stated. “Federal, state, and local officials will continue to do everything possible and coordinate rescue and relief efforts. And these courageous acts from professionals and ordinary Kentuckians alike will continue to provide a hopeful glimmer of humanity in this dark disaster.”

He also thanked the legislators and local leaders working to help people in the impacted areas. “State Representative Chris Fugate represents Breathitt, Owsley, and Perry counties. He tells me he’s housing about 85 people in his church. And the need for shelter for displaced residents will only grow,” McConnell said. “State Senator Johnnie Turner represents five counties, including Knott and Letcher. He plans to use his own equipment to help clear debris from roads.”