A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Death toll in historic Eastern Kentucky flooding rises to 40, two women still missing; cleanup continues

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday the death toll from the historic flooding in Eastern Kentucky, which has led to a major disaster declaration by President Biden, has now risen one more to 40.

“Sadly, this individual was lost during cleanup efforts in Pike County,” Beshear said. “Each of these individuals is a child of God, and we mourn with all of their loved ones and all of Eastern Kentucky.”

Two Letcher County women remain missing after raging flood water struck their community.

Some state bridges are beginning to be replaced in Eastern Kentucky.

Beshear also announced the positive news that Knott and Letcher counties are the first to submit requests for and receive financial assistance from the Eastern Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies Fund, known as EKSAFE. These funds will be used to help support recovery efforts following the massive flooding that began July 26, devastating areas of Eastern Kentucky.

Together the two counties will receive more than $1.28 million in funding, including $531,000 to the Knott County Fiscal Court to relieve its strained fiscal situation; along with $531,000 to the Letcher County Fiscal Court to ease their fiscal situation and $220,000 to engage a floodplain coordinator.

The governor said more applications are on the way and that his administration is eager to continue distributing these dollars to the Eastern Kentucky communities.

“To our Eastern Kentucky families, we are with you today, tomorrow and in the months and years ahead,” Beshear said. “We love you and we will get through this, and we will get through it together.”

More than $200 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund was allocated to EKSAFE during a special session of the General Assembly in August, along with an additional $12.7 million from federal ARPA funds.

“This special session was not partisan or bipartisan, it was nonpartisan,” Beshear said. “When we put politics aside and work together to support our people is when we truly move Kentucky forward.”

EKSAFE is much like the Western Kentucky SAFE Fund aid provided to help communities rebuild following the December 2021 tornado outbreak. As of last week, the Western Kentucky SAFE Fund had distributed more than $71.3 million to provide victims shelter in travel trailers, support impacted schools and their students and provided local rebuilding assistance.

Also on Tuesday, Beshear announced he has sent a letter to President Biden, seeking an additional modification to the disaster declaration to reflect a 90% federal cost share period once the 100% coverage period concludes. On August 6, President Biden issued a letter approving cost-sharing arrangement for the flooding event to increase the federal share from 75% to 100% for a 30-day period within the first 120 days of the declaration. The governor said Kentucky is grateful for the assistance, but given the flooding impact to these communities, more cost-sharing is needed to help local and state governments recover.

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