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Are There Extra Dollars To Retain Nurses In Kentucky? The Governor And Republicans Disagree

LRC Public Information / AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

The Kentucky governor and the top Republican in the state Senate are at odds over whether additional federal money exists that could be used to bolster hospital staff in the commonwealth. 

Senate President Robert Stivers argued Friday that the GOP-led General Assembly was ready and willing to allocate tens of millions in American Rescue Plan dollars to help attract and retain healthcare workers in Kentucky.

The Manchester Republican said the funds could be designated for supplemental, differential, or recruiting pay, but the administration "refused to do that" – despite hospital staffing shortages and other states poaching Kentucky's healthcare workforce. 

In response, Beshear told WUKY Friday the administration asked and didn’t receive answers about the funds in question.

"We asked repeatedly, where is the $90-extra million dollars coming from and we never heard," the governor told WUKY. "Those dollars simply didn't exist, so it wasn't responsible to appropriate them."

Yet even if extra ARPA funds are not available, Stivers countered that the state has more than $2 billion in budget reserve trust fund and surplus revenue that could be tapped to help stop nurses and other healthcare workers from leaving the state.

During the recent special session, lawmakers were limited to addressing only items included in the governor's call. On the list: appropriating roughly $69 million in leftover ARPA funds after repayment of a federal loan to the state's unemployment trust fund. The General Assembly agree to spend the money on a number of pandemic-related provisions, among them the purchase of COVID-19 tests, regional monoclonal antibody treatment centers, and test-to-stay programs in schools.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.