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Beshear considers calling special session as eastern Kentucky flood relief and restoration efforts underway

Many roads into hollers in the Jenkins, Ky. area are still heavily damaged from the flood.
Justin Hicks
Many roads into hollers in the Jenkins, Ky. area are still heavily damaged from the flood.

A week after historic floods and mudslides ravaged eastern Kentucky and rebuilding and restoration efforts were in full swing, Gov. Andy Beshear said he may call a special session to discuss a flood relief package. 

During a news conference Wednesday, Beshear said he will likely call a special legislative session for lawmakers to consider a relief measure to help eastern Kentucky flood victims.

"It's going to be needed, but we're working on it right now and we've heard strong willingness from legislators," he said.

Beshear said it would be similar to the State Aid Funding for Emergencies Act (SAFE) fund that was used during the western Kentucky tornado relief to cover expenses and services that were not eligible under FEMA aid.

Only the governor can summon lawmakers to Frankfort to pass new laws or appropriate money outside of the regular legislative session, which lasts from January to either March or April each year.

The last time Beshear called a special session was after the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld laws limiting the governor's emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers passed coronavirus-related bills and extended the state of emergency, which would have expired without legislative action.

The number of fatalities from last week’s flooding stands at 37. On Tuesday, Pike County joined Breathitt, Clay, Knott, Letcher and Perry counties as the sixth county that can receive FEMA assistance. Local renters and homeowners who have lost their homes to floods can now apply for individual disaster assistance

Cell service has been restored in most areas, but many water and wastewater systems are still not operational due to storm damage and power outages. Beshear said this would take significant time and money to restore.

“A key part of the infrastructure has been flooded, and having to go in and repair, it takes time. But in some areas, it's just wiped out. The pipes, everything is gone. Some may get [water] in days, some may get it in weeks, and some areas, it may even be months until we are able to fully repair that infrastructure,” Beshear said. 

Temperatures are set to soar to the triple digits over the next few days. Beshear said he considered hot weather to be the next biggest challenge to get through. Cooling centers have been set up in eight counties. 

The Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund received 21,600 donations so far, totaling more than $3 million in contributions. Beshear announced that 11 funeral payments would be going out from the fund.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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