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'We stand united.' Kentucky General Assembly delivers $212 million in flood relief

flood
Bruce Schreiner/AP
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ap
Kentucky state Sens. Stephen West, left, and Ralph Alvarado chat on the opening day of a special legislative session on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, in Frankfort, Ky. Lawmakers were called into session by Gov. Andy Beshear to take up legislation providing state assistance for flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)

Kentucky lawmakers fast-tracked a $212 million package including various kinds of flood relief for eastern Kentucky – ranging from help for road and bridge repair to schools to water systems.

"The bill we passed today takes a substantial first step in rebuilding eastern Kentucky."
Senate President Robert Stivers

The legislation was crafted and passed over a brief three-day special legislative session and signed by Gov. Andy Beshear within hours on Friday.

While lawmakers praised the swift, seamless nature of the session, the question of whether the bill could have done more for housing did arise, with Senator Brandon Smith unsuccessfully pushing for an extra $50 dedicated to housing.

"I challenge the governor and the leaders to bring us back in here and give us enough days to get housing addressed for both of these groups, for western Kentucky and eastern Kentucky, because we are getting ready to see a crisis that will be historic across Appalachia," Smith warned his colleagues, before casting a reluctant aye vote in favor of the package.

But state leaders said the new relief bill does include money to help get residents in appropriate housing. Beshear said those efforts are underway and will soon receive a boost.

"What I know that this bill does is help us to purchase and move forward with intermediate housing," the governor said. "For us, a lot of that is travel trailers. FEMA's housing program is just about to turn on and that will amplify what's there."

In all, the bill received only one no vote in the Senate – with Republican John Schickel saying he was concerned about the unusual speed of the special session, which was shortened to three days from its typical five.

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.