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$8.5 million presented to Hopkins County for tornado recovery, cleanup

From the Governor's Office
File photo: Hopkins County Judge/Executive Jack Whitfield and Pres. Joe Biden tour tornado damage in the aftermath of the December 2021 tornadoes that struck Hopkins County and several other Kentucky counties, primarily in western Kentucky.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 28, 2022) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that Hopkins County will receive $8.5 million in assistance from the West Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies (SAFE) fund to help it recover from the December tornadoes that devastated the county and took the lives of Hopkins County residents.

Gov. Beshear recommended the funding, and the 2022 General Assembly supported the aid by passing Senate Bill 150, which Beshear signed April 15. Hopkins County is the first county to receive SAFE funds. Kentucky Emergency Management anticipates as many as 19 additional applications for SAFE funding will be filed in the coming weeks, and those will be carefully reviewed to ensure the funds are used to their maximum benefit.

Under the provisions of SB 150, more than $120.8 million was appropriated to emergency management. Eligible cities, counties, public and nonprofit utilities and school districts can apply for much-needed financial support from the fund as they continue to clean up and rebuild their communities in the wake of the devastating tornadoes that struck areas in Western Kentucky in December 2021.

The $8.5 million awarded today to Hopkins County will be used to offset some of the cost of debris removal that is ineligible for FEMA assistance. It will also help to ease the county’s strained fiscal liquidity and accommodate the 5.2 percent local share for FEMA-eligible expenses.

“Thankfully, through the efforts of the legislature, especially Sen. Robby Mills, and Gov. Beshear, the SAFE Act was passed,” Hopkins County Judge/Executive Jack Whitfield said. “This act will help provide funding for the county to continue to move forward in our rebuilding process. In a day when all too often politics gets in the way of getting work done, I am pleased that our state has come together to assist all of the counties that have seen so much devastation. Again, Gov. Beshear, Sen. Mills and the entire legislature – thank you and God bless.”

The Kentucky Division of Emergency Management (KYEM) continues to meet with county officials in areas affected by the December 2021 storms as they prepare to submit applications to receive SAFE funds. KYEM is also providing guidance to counties to ensure the projects they submit meet the eligibility requirements to receive financial support from the SAFE fund.

Beshear also has provided SAFE funds to support schools and students affected by the tornadoes as well as to provide temporary housing. House Bill 5, which Beshear signed into law Jan. 13, 2022, allocated $30 million to provide wraparound services for schoolchildren and their families.

The funds are supporting after-school services and activities, mental health counseling services and outside-of-school tutoring. Funds are also supporting school transportation needs and construction and repairs of school building facilities that have been destroyed or severely damaged by the storms. An additional $15 million was allocated to procure temporary housing for storm survivors.

Beshear also launched the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, which has raised more than $51 million in donations to support Western Kentucky families. Nearly $10 million has been distributed to pay for storm victims’ funerals and to support uninsured and insured Kentuckians whose homes were destroyed.

Beshear said the fund is focused on medium- and long-term rebuilding, and the next phase in distributing the funds is to work with nonprofits and organizations to help people rebuild their homes. The governor said announcements on these housing partnerships are forthcoming.

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