Kentucky Budget Writers Get Coronavirus Relief Details

Mar 10, 2021

Credit Ryland Barton

Kentucky’s state and local governments will get about $4 billion from the federal coronavirus relief bill making its way through Congress, according to Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration. That’s in addition to the $5 billion individuals in Kentucky stand to get from stimulus checks, an extension of unemployment benefits and other programs.

The figures come as lawmakers are trying to put the finishing touches on a one-year state budget after a year of economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

John Hicks, Kentucky’s state budget director, said the administration is still waiting for the relief package to pass and for formal instructions from the federal government.

“By the end of this week, we want to give some thought, some ideas on how these funds may be utilized here in Kentucky,” Hicks said.

As part of the relief package, individuals making up to $75,000 per year will receive $1,400 stimulus checks, people on unemployment will get an extra $300 per week, and the child tax credit will be temporarily expanded.

Hicks told budget writers on Tuesday the state government will receive $2.4 billion in aid, which can be used on coronavirus-specific needs like testing and vaccination programs, relief for businesses and individuals, and “premium pay” for essential workers—an additional $13 per hour.

The money can be used to replace lost tax revenue during the pandemic, but Hicks said Kentucky won’t have to because revenues have remained relatively stable.

Another part of the package allows the state to use the funds to shore up water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said the federal package overlaps with state budget priorities, and lawmakers need more specific figures as they write the spending plan.

“You’re saying by the end of the week,” Stivers said. “I’m asking, can you get it quicker?”

Stivers said he was unsure whether the funds could be put toward a $250 million bill that seeks to boost broadband access in under-served communities.

Leaders of the Republican-led legislature are trying to pass a budget by March 17, the beginning of a 10-day period during which Beshear can sign or veto bills.

That would allow lawmakers to return for the final two days of the legislative session to override any vetoes Beshear issues to the budget.

Sen. David Givens, a Republican from Greensburg, said lawmakers were excited but anxious about the influx of money.

“We want to be wise, we want to be prudent, we want to be thoughtful, but the natural deadlines of the budget is going to cause us to make decisions,” Givens said.

Local governments in Kentucky will receive $1.6 billion as part of the package, and K-12 school districts will receive a separate chunk of money that hasn’t been determined yet.