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Chris McDaniel: General Assembly takes swift action during special session to support fellow Kentuckians

Kentucky officials, residents, and many from outside our state’s borders turned their full attention to the desperate needs of our fellow Kentuckians when historic flooding ravaged eastern Kentucky in July.

Millions of dollars in donations poured in to aid in rescue and recovery efforts. Volunteers from far and wide traveled to the region and delivered vital basic supplies to residents cut off because of collapsed roads, bridges, and seemingly never-ending mudslides. The reaction was similar to the response following devastating tornadoes that tore through western Kentucky last December. Without a doubt, during times of need, Kentucky residents remain united.

My colleagues and I in the Kentucky General Assembly directed our attention and efforts toward Eastern Kentucky’s needs just as we did for Western Kentucky in the 2022 Legislative Session. Members of Senate Leadership, working closely with Eastern Kentucky legislative delegation members, met with local judge-executives, mayors and volunteers. The legislature leaned heavily into the personal experiences of those on the ground in the region, which led to House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1, also known as EKSAFE, the Eastern Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ryland Heights, and Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, observe Eastern Kentucky flooding impacts aboard a Kentucky National Guard Blackhawk Helicopter. (Photo from Sen. Chris McDaniel)

Following weeks of deliberate communication to identify eastern Kentucky’s most pressing and immediate needs, legislative leaders signaled to the Governor that the General Assembly was prepared to take action. Together, we crafted a relief package to bring desperately needed aid to local governments, communities and schools. On Tuesday, the Governor’s proclamation called lawmakers into an extraordinary session where we successfully enacted EKSAFE into law, allocating a total of $212,662,200 of direct aid to those impacted by the disaster.

From the total, $75 million will go to the Kentucky Department of Military Affairs’ Division of Emergency Management. KYEM’s mission is to coordinate a system of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery during crisis situations such as July’s floods. An additional $40 million will be available if the first $75 million is exhausted.

To support school operations hampered by flooding and ensure we provide quality education to students, EKSAFE is allocating $40 million to the Kentucky Department of Education. The bill gives the school districts in the impacted counties flexibility in student attendance days, remote instruction, and emergency leave for teachers by temporarily reforming state statutes governing those requirements.

Another $45 million will repair the region’s roads, highways and bridges. The sheer force of floodwaters completely washed away homes and infrastructure. Sadly, it also swept away human lives. While we know these dollars cannot bring back lives lost or heal broken hearts, it is a first step toward the recovery and rebuilding of communities.

Legislative focus entering the extraordinary session was committed to meeting the short-term needs in eastern Kentucky, and I am pleased to say we accomplished our collective goal. A further needs assessment will occur in the months ahead as we distribute EKSAFE funding across the region. We remain committed to reassessing those needs in January when the General Assembly begins the 30-day 2023 Legislative Session.

As Senate Budget Chair, I am incredibly proud of my colleagues and the legislative branch. Our deliberative body has repeatedly proven capable of taking necessary action in times of our constituents’ needs. Good policy over the past several years has created a robust rainy day fund, making emergency dollars available for such purposes.

Join me with continued prayers for those who have lost so much. Consider helping in any way you can, big or small. Be safe. God bless.

Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) represents the 23rd District which comprises northern Kenton County.

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