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Ky. auditor identifies $200k in inappropriate payments from tornado relief fund

Derek Operle

A special examination of the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund by the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts’ office found that nearly $240,000 in inappropriate payments were made from the account in Fiscal Year 2023.

These actions include duplicate payments, ineligible individuals receiving payments and overpayments. The bulk of these payments – nearly 89% of them – were related to the more than 200 checks for $1,000 each sent incorrectly to people who either did not request the funds or did not need the money. These payments – referred to as 2nd Assistance Payments in the report – were distributed based on Department of Insurance and FEMA data.

In a press release, Auditor Mike Harmon said the APA office had identified two possible reasons why those recipients received payments erroneously.

“Our auditors found [that] because the majority of disaster funds were directly sent to people without requiring an application, they may not have been aware assistance funds were coming. Additionally, the check memo line on the Second Assistance Payments may have created some confusion,” Harmon said. “While the Public Protection Cabinet (PPC) indicated letters were sent with checks explaining why recipients were receiving payments, it was impossible for the APA to determine if letters were sent with all checks.”

The inappropriate payments from the tornado relief fund made up less than 1% of the total expenditures from the account during that fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the APA office did not identify any inappropriate payments from the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund.

The special examination of the two disaster relief funds came following a request over the summer from the Legislative Oversight and Investigations Committee.

The relief funds, established by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, were created to collect donations and distribute the funds to survivors of the 2021 tornado outbreak in western Kentucky and the 2022 eastern Kentucky floods. The state’s Public Protection Cabinet oversees both funds.

A law passed earlier this year gives Kentucky legislators oversight when it comes to disaster relief funds, and also requires agencies that oversee the funds to provide a report analyzing the accounts each fiscal year.
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