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Relief bill includes $200 million for communities impacted by tornadoes

Ryland Barton

Lawmakers unveiled a plan to provide $200 million to communities hit hard by last month’s tornadoes, aligning with a proposal made by Gov. Andy Beshear last week.

The measure would immediately spend $45 million on temporary housing and resources for schools to rebuild after the disaster. Legislative leaders say the other $155 million will be set aside once the full extent of damage and needs in the region can be tallied.

Rep. Richard Heath, a Republican from Mayfield, one of the cities hit hardest by the storms, said the money is intended to go to people who “saw the destruction firsthand and lost everything.”

“It’s going to take a whole lot to get back to normal, but the process has started,” Heath said.

House Bill 5 passed out of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee unanimously on Monday and now heads to the floor for a vote. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate.

Of the initial money available in the bill, $30 million will go to schools for wrap-around services like after-school programs, tutoring and mental health help for children and families.

It will also go towards repairing school facilities damaged during the storms and paying to transport students who have been displaced to surrounding counties.

Another $15 million will go to creating stable housing for people displaced across the state. According to lawmakers, the housing funds can be used to help buy RVs and other options “that bring more stable home situations.”

House Speaker David Osborne said the other $155 million will be set aside for now and spent once lawmakers get a better idea of what’s needed, whether it’s funds for local governments or responding to insurance shortfalls.

“We wanted to absolutely establish that the money’s there, appropriate the money, but we don’t know how to identify the exact dollars yet. As soon as those dollars are identified, then they will be released with additional pieces of legislation,” Osborne said.

Osborne said the legislature would have to be in session to identify further uses for the money, meaning Beshear would have to call lawmakers to Frankfort for a special session if it happens once the regular session ends on April 14.

Rep. Kelly Flood, a Democrat from Lexington, said lawmakers should make more money immediately available to people affected by the tornadoes.

“$45 million seems shy of what we need to be putting out right now,” Flood said.

Rep. Myron Dossett, a Republican from Pembroke, said he wants the legislature to have oversight over how the money is spent.

“I think it’s important that as we move through this we’re able to see how many dollars are needed and we’re able to get those dollars to the exact places they need to go,” Dossett said.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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