Legislature Approves $212 Million To Help Eastern Kentucky Recovery Efforts

Legislative Update by Representative Derek Lewis

When the rain started, no one could have imagined the devastation that would remain after record flooding wiped out entire areas of eastern Kentucky. Thirty-nine people, including four children, perished. Hundreds, if not thousands, of homes are gone. Schools are unusable and public buildings that have served as community landmarks are destroyed or heavily damaged.

rep house caucus logoWhile we cannot bring back those who are lost, we can honor them by helping those in the region begin the long, hard process of rebuilding. I am honored to say that I used our district’s voice in the legislature to approve legislation aimed at providing more than $212 million to aid those efforts. The measure, HB 1, is similar to the relief package passed during the 2022 Regular Session that provided aid to Western Kentucky communities devastated by tornadoes and storms in December 2021. With the passage of HB 1, we created the East Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies (EKSAFE) Fund. The EKSAFE fund would receive an initial $200 million during the current fiscal year from the budget reserve trust fund. EKSAFE can receive state appropriations, gifts, grants, federal funds, and any other funds, both public and private. However, the fund exists to administer taxpayer dollars so the state will not compete with nonprofits and charities. Eligibility for EKSAFE funds includes cities and counties, school districts, nonprofit or public utility providers, and state agencies.

The $200 million allocation to EKSAFE breaks down into the following categories:

  • - $75 million for eligible school districts, cities, counties, public utility providers, nonprofits, and state agencies. Once that money is allocated, an additional $40 million will be available for school districts and public utilities.
  • In addition, the Department of Education’s Operations and Support Services budget unit will receive $40 million to provide funding for wrap-around services, transportation, and advancing funds for construction.
  • $45 million is directed to the Transportation Cabinet for reimbursement from federal emergency disaster assistance.

In addition to the $200 million allocated to start the EKSAFE Fund, HB 1 also expends over $12 million in federal funds for eligible water and sewer infrastructure projects.

Qualifying recipients must be located in areas named in the federal emergency declaration and funding can only be used to take care of needs related directly to the flooding. Eligible expenses will support disaster and recovery, including those that are waiting for reimbursement from federal emergency management assistance and insurance claims. Recipients are required to reimburse the fund once they receive payment for their claim. Eligible expenses could include the replacement or renovation of publicly-owned buildings; reimbursement for services, personnel, and equipment provided during the response and recovery; financial assistance for school districts that would experience default in bond payments; and financial aid to school districts with building and tangible property replacement needs.

HB 1 also provides help to schools damaged by flooding by directing the Department of Education to waive an additional 15 student attendance days through January 20, 2023. An additional 20 remote learning days would be available with the flexibility given to local districts to use those days for particular schools, grades, classrooms, or groups of students. Temporary changes would also be made to the formula used to determine average daily attendance in districts listed in the FEMA declaration.

The measure includes language to ensure appropriate oversight, specifically provisions that require the state budget director and Department of Education to report all expenditures to the legislature by the tenth of each month, beginning on September 10, 2022.

In addition to addressing needs in Eastern Kentucky, HB 1 also made some changes that will help the disaster relief package we passed for Western Kentucky better address the current needs. That package passed when we convened the 2022 Regular Session in January.

The legislation we passed last week is the result of many hours of work and lots of input from legislators from that area, state emergency management, local leaders, school officials, and citizens. It is a major first step in a long march, but it will speed up the rebuilding process to get schools open, utilities restored, and roads and bridges rebuilt. We will continue to gather the information necessary to take the next steps in both Eastern and Western Kentucky when we convene the 2023 Regular Session in four months.

As always, I hope you will contact me with any questions or concerns. You can reach me here at home in our district or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. If you would like more information, visit the legislature's website or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..