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U.S. Sen. McConnell on two-day tour of flood-ravaged Eastern Kentucky

Office of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

On the heels of a visit from President Joe Biden, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is on a two-day tour of flood-ravaged Eastern Kentucky.

The Louisville Republican is surveying damage, meeting with local officials, and visiting relief centers. He's also been touting federal legislation for placing the state in a good financial position for long-term recovery.

Sen. McConnell has stops planned on Wednesday in Chavies, Lost Creek, Whitesburg, and Bonnyman.

On Tuesday, McConnell spoke during a news conference in Knott County where 18 people perished in the flooding.

“I started in Pikeville and went over to Neon where I saw debris that’s been cleaned off the side of road, and roads only partially passable," McConnell said. "This was a catastrophe of calamitous proportions.”

McConnell’s visit follows President Joe Biden’s trip to the region on Monday. The Republican leader said he would have visited the area sooner if the U.S. Senate hadn’t been in session.

McConnell stressed the importance of applying for individual FEMA assistance, and said Kentucky has never been in better financial shape to pay for recovery costs due to federal programs like the American Rescue Plan Act, although the Senator didn’t support that pandemic-related stimulus plan.

“In terms of the pool of funding available for Kentucky, it’s never been bigger," McConnell said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who also visited eastern Kentucky on Tuesday, is asking both President Joe Biden and Governor Andy Beshear to issue waivers allowing the state and communities affected by major disasters to use unspent COVID-19 relief funds to rebuild.

In a news conference, the Bowling Green Republican said such waivers would not only immediately benefit flood victims in Eastern Kentucky, but would also help those western Kentuckians who were impacted by last winter’s tornado outbreak.

During his visit to eastern Kentucky on Monday, President Biden signaled his willingness to allow the waivers.

“I promise you, if it’s legal, we’ll do it, and if it’s not legal, we’ll figure out how to change the law," he said.

At least 37 people lost their lives in the flooding when more than ten inches of rain, in some places, fell in just 48 hours in the Appalachian mountain region.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.