Kentucky lawmakers tee up flood-relief package for votes

August 25, 2022 GMT
Kentucky state Sen. Johnnie Turner gives a speech on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in Frankfort, Ky., to talk about the devastation caused by flooding that hit eastern Kentucky last month. The Kentucky Legislature is meeting in a special session to work on a sweeping state assistance package for the stricken Appalachian region. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)
Kentucky state Sen. Johnnie Turner gives a speech on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in Frankfort, Ky., to talk about the devastation caused by flooding that hit eastern Kentucky last month. The Kentucky Legislature is meeting in a special session to work on a sweeping state assistance package for the stricken Appalachian region. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)
Kentucky state Sen. Johnnie Turner gives a speech on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in Frankfort, Ky., to talk about the devastation caused by flooding that hit eastern Kentucky last month. The Kentucky Legislature is meeting in a special session to work on a sweeping state assistance package for the stricken Appalachian region. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)
Kentucky state Sen. Johnnie Turner gives a speech on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in Frankfort, Ky., to talk about the devastation caused by flooding that hit eastern Kentucky last month. The Kentucky Legislature is meeting in a special session to work on a sweeping state assistance package for the stricken Appalachian region. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)
Kentucky state Sen. Johnnie Turner gives a speech on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in Frankfort, Ky., to talk about the devastation caused by flooding that hit eastern Kentucky last month. The Kentucky Legislature is meeting in a special session to work on a sweeping state assistance package for the stricken Appalachian region. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Lawmakers on Thursday teed up a sweeping state aid package for a flurry of climactic votes in a special legislative session convened to assist flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky.

The nearly $213 million measure will be heard in committee Friday morning, setting the stage for House and Senate votes that would send the legislation to Gov. Andy Beshear.

The package would dip into the state’s massive budget reserves to aid the recovery of cities, counties, school districts and utilities in the devastated Appalachian region.

Floodwaters last month destroyed homes and businesses and engulfed communities. The disaster caused at least 39 deaths and robbed thousands of families of all of their possessions.

Lawmakers from the region continued offering heart-wrenching details of the devastation caused by the historic flooding. It’s expected to take years for the region to recover.

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Republican Sen. Brandon Smith, who represents some of the stricken Appalachian counties, proposed an amendment Thursday that would expand the legislation to include housing assistance.

“At this moment, I’m telling you we need this,” Smith, his voiced choked with emotion, said as he previewed the amendment he plans to present Friday for a vote.

Smith said his proposal also would extend housing assistance to people still struggling from devastating tornadoes that hit portions of western Kentucky in December. Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a $200 million package for the tornado-stricken region.

The current version of the eastern Kentucky relief plan would draw $200 million from the state Budget Reserve Trust Fund. The biggest chunk — $115 million — would support cities, counties, school districts, state agencies and utility service providers. Another $45 million would help repair and replace bridges and roads. And $40 million would be used for repairs to school buildings, additional transportation costs for displaced students and services for children and families.

Nearly $12.7 million in federal funds would be used for water and sewer infrastructure projects.