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Gov. Beshear vetoes bill to end COVID state of emergency

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear at the podium during a COVID-19 memorial service at the State Capitol in Frankfort on Nov. 14, 2021.
A committee established by Gov. Andy Beshear in June to gauge public interest on medical cannabis found strong support from residents.

Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed a measure to end the COVID-19 state of emergency in Kentucky, saying it would take away food assistance for hundreds of thousands of families. 

Senate Joint Resolution 150 overwhelmingly passed out of the Republican-led legislature last week. It calls for ending the state of emergency in Kentucky on March 7, or whenever the resolution becomes law.

Supporters of the measure say it would end coronavirus-related restrictions as the pandemic wanes across the state and country. But Kentucky currently has no restrictions in place, and hasn’t since the state Supreme Court upheld new laws weakening the governor’s emergency powers.

But the resolution could have impacts on federal funding. During a press conference on Monday, Beshear said it would halt additional money the state receives for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Beshear said the state receives an additional $46 million to $53 million each month during the pandemic.

In his veto message, Beshear said the funding is important for Kentucky families.

“Without the state declaration of emergency related to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the emergency SNAP allotments will end, leaving more than half a million Kentuckians – including Kentucky children – without the emergency assistance they need to buy health food for their families,” Beshear wrote.

The legislature can easily override Beshear’s veto with a majority of votes in each chamber, a frequent occurrence for the Democratic governor and Republican-led legislature.

Lawmakers passed, and Beshear signed, a measure earlier this year that would end the state of emergency on April 15, the day after the conclusion of the annual legislative session.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said in a statement Monday that the state can still find ways to fund the expansion.

“While the Governor claims his signature on an executive order declaring a State of Emergency is the only remedy that can secure extended pandemic-related SNAP benefits, we note that a Statement of Emergency is provided through the emergency administrative regulation process,” Stivers said.

The resolution includes language saying the legislature does not intend “to impair or delay the ability of the Commonwealth to receive any federal stimulus or pandemic-related funds or services.”

According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, a progressive think tank, more than 528,000 people in the state receive SNAP benefits.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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