Beshear and legislature agree to use federal COVID aid
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear praised the Republican-led legislature for funding broadband, water and school construction projects with Kentucky’s part of the federal coronavirus relief program, saying it would create jobs and stimulate the state economy.
Lawmakers set aside $ 1.3 billion in stimulus funds during this year’s legislative session, almost half of the total amount the Kentucky state government will get from the federal package.
Beshear estimated that the effort would create around 14,500 jobs and that lawmakers were on a “good start.”
“It’s one of the first times we’ve been able to work together so closely, and I think it’s going to be good for everyone,” Beshear said.
State budget drafters received notice late in this year’s legislative session that Kentucky would receive approximately $ 2.4 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed by Congress earlier. This year.
Although all Kentucky Republican members of Congress voted against the legislation, state GOP lawmakers took the opportunity to fund infrastructure projects with federal money after initially expressing caution.
The legislature spent $ 300 million to expand broadband internet in underserved parts of the state, $ 250 million for water and sanitation projects, $ 575 million to start paying off state unemployment insurance loans; and $ 127 million for school construction and renovation.
Beshear said the funding is an opportunity to modernize the state’s infrastructure for people and businesses.
“Normally we do one of these projects, and who pays for it? We do. They increase our rates over a period of time, ”Beshear said.
Last year, Beshear used funding from the CARES Act for coronavirus testing, vaccine distribution, eviction assistance and other programs – actions lawmakers were unable to approve because they did not were not in session.
But this year, lawmakers stripped Beshear of the power to spend federal aid money without their approval.
This means that if Beshear is to access the more than $ 1 billion remaining in Kentucky’s relief plan before lawmakers return next January, he will have to recall them for a special legislative session.
On Wednesday, Beshear said it was too early to say whether he would convene a special session, but that he would still like to create a relief program for “small businesses, affected industries and individuals.”
The next ordinary legislative session begins on January 4, 2022.