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Beshear Says Projected Budget Shortfall A ‘Real Threat’ To Post-COVID State

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Screenshot of Governor Andy Beshear's Facebook Live
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Governor Andy Beshear said the coronavirus has taken a toll on the state budget.

Today the Director of the Office of State Budget issued a quarterly report predicting a shortfall of 319-496 million dollars for this fiscal year. Beshear said he also predicted an additional road fund shortfall of 100-200 million dollars. He said the report suggests that next year is going to be “very difficult.”

“Now some people may think ‘eh, it’s a state budget, but what does a state budget do?’” Beshear said. “It’s education. It’s public safety. It’s so many important programs that are absolutely critical, especially for those that are living paycheck-to-paycheck…”

Beshear said the shortfall is a “real threat.” He said without federal assistance, the recession will be longer and unemployment will be greater. 

“So all 50 U.S. governors are pushing, are lobbying, are pressing the federal government and Congress to include direct budget assistance to states and local governments that are facing the same thing.”

He said the government provided this type of assistance during the Great Recession “but what we’re facing right now is a worldwide health pandemic that comes with another ‘great recession.’”

“They did it then. They can do it now. This is not a political issue,” Beshear said. 

Beshear also said SNAP benefits can now be used for eligible online grocery orders at Amazon and Wal-Mart.

Beshear said there are “significant spots” left for the Kroger coronavirus testing next week, including 400 spots in Bowling Green. 

“Let’s make sure as we’re trying to amp up our testing capacity, we get each and every one of those filled,” he said.

He said testing will be completed at Green River testing complex tomorrow.

Kentucky Department for Public Health commissioner Steven Stack said a company called Batelle is using a Critical Care Decontamination System to reuse N95 respirators. The system uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide to clean the respirators, which can then be reused up to 20 times. He said one of these systems is installed at the Expo Center at the Louisville Fairgrounds. 

“It is planned to be operational next week so if you are a hospital, a doctor’s office, a dentist, anyone who uses N95 respirators, you can go to the Battelle website www.battelle.org/decon...we want everybody to use this,” Stack said. “This is easy. Once you’ve signed up, they send you return shipping labels and materials, you label the N95s, you ship them back, FedEx takes care of the bidirectional shipping...it’s gone for probably just a two-three day period and you receive it back and then you can reuse the masks multiple times.”

Stack said the shipping cost is “all paid for.”

Beshear said state officials have released a schedule starting on May 11 for a gradual reopening of the economy. 

 

 

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Credit Screenshot of Governor Andy Beshear's Facebook Live
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He said “work has to look different” for businesses as they reopen. The state is accepting proposals from industry groups and trade associations for reopening at healthatwork.ky.gov. The website also lists the benchmarks for reopening the economy. Beshear said there are ten rules for Healthy at Work:

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Credit Screenshot of Governor Andy Beshear's Facebook Live
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Beshear said child care is not included in phase 1 of re-opening.

“Unfortunately with the way this virus works right now, if we have child care in the form it was before, we can’t have ‘Healthy at Work.’ We’re at a stage where it’s [child care] too dangerous for ‘Healthy at Work’,” he said. “...You can go from four [contacts] very quickly to over a thousand.”

He said state officials are discussing the possibility of child care in phase 2. 

Beshear also said a special American Resolve fly-over is occurring tomorrow to honor first responders and health care workers. 

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Credit Kentucky Air National Guard
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Beshear confirmed 174 new cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth today. That brings the total number of cases in the state to 4,708 out of 56,511 total tests administered. Beshear reported five new coronavirus-related deaths, including a 93-year-old female in Daviess County. He said 1,675 Kentuckians have recovered from the virus.

 

Education and Workforce Development Deputy Secretary Josh Benton said the March claims for unemployment insurance that need to be processed is now down to 28,000. He said roughly 9,000 of those claims are pending documentation. He said state officials will send emails to those they do not have identity documents for. 

 

Beshear said he is taking a break from the afternoon coronavirus briefings on Saturday. 

“In a step of self-care, I’m going to get a little time on this Saturday to myself as well. I hope you understand.”

Steps The State Has Taken To Address COVID-19

  • Kentucky's "Healthy at Work" initiative will feature a phased reopening of the state's economy beginning May 11. 

  • Kentuckians will be required to wear masks in public beginning May 11.

  • ?Announced that Monday, April 27, the state will begin the gradual restart and reopening of our Phase 1 health care services and facilities, although they will operate vastly different than they did before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Click here for detailed guidance.

  • Announced the launch of "Healthy at Work," a new initiative to help Kentucky businesses reopen safely as we fight the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).

  • The state will work to expand testing in predominantly African-American communities. 

  • The Murray Calloway-County Hospital is providing drive-thru COVID-19 testing to residents of the region. 

  • In-class educational instruction will cease for the remainder of the Spring 2020 Semster.

  • Kroger will be setting up drive-up testing sites in Madisonville and Paducah beginning April 21.

  • ?Beshear announced benchmarks Kentucky must meet in order to start reopening the state's economy while keeping Kentuckians safe from the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The steps reflect federal guidance announced Thursday by the White House.

  • ? Kentucky is joining with Governors, Eric Holcomb of Indiana, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Tim Walz of Minnesota and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan to closely coordinate plans to reopen the regional economies when the time is right.

  • License plate numbers of any individual attending in-person gatherings will be recorded by state and local officials. The residents will then receive quarantine notices in person from their local health departments.

  • Beshear issued an executive order limiting the number of people in stores that remain open. Only one adult per household should shop at one time.

  • The state is increasing unemployment hotline operators from 12 to more than 1,000.

  • The Department of Public Health is introducing a tiered system to streamline COVID-19 testing. Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack announced a partnership with 32 Kentucky hospitals to expand access to testing, especially in the rural parts of the commonwealth. 

  • Beshear issued an executive order commuting the sentences for 186 C and D felons. 

  • Beshear has issued a 14-day quarantine for returning Kentucky residents who have left the state for reasons other than: caring for a loved one, going to the closest grocery store for supplies, parental visitation, going to work

  • State officials are moving ahead with plans to convert the Louisville Fairgrounds into a field hospital with at least 2,000 beds. Beshear said the state is working in conjunction with the National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers.

  • State officials banned overnight stays in state parks. Beshear said this includes campgrounds and lodges.

  • Beshear extended the policy of no in-person instruction in schools through at least Friday, May 1.

  • Beshear announced an executive order expanding travel restrictions to where out-of-state people travelling into Kentucky need to quarantine for fourteen days “wherever they’re coming.” People who are just stopping for gas in the state are not included in the order.

  • Beshear issued an executive order allowing critical workforce sectors to rehire previously retired workers to fill key roles.

  • Beshear issued an executive order easing restrictions on nurses who live out of state and making it quicker to obtain a license.

  • Beshear announced a new website portal to connect businesses interested in donating services or supplies with Kentuckians and Kentucky medical facilities in need.

  • Beshear asked mayors and county judge-executives to monitor people gathering in public places such as parks and stop them if people are not practicing social distancing and risking the spread of COVID-19.

  • Unemployment eligibility has been expanded to include individuals typically not covered by unemployment insurance. This includes self-employed, independent contractors, freelance workers, substitute teachers and childcare workers employed by religious affiliated organizations and nonprofits.

  • ?State officials have suspended evictions for the duration of the COVID-19 Emergency.

  • Beshear established a Team Kentucky fund to help provide financial assistance to Kentuckians whose employment has been affected by this virus. People can donate to the fund that will be overseen by the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet. Beshear said the fund will work like most popular fundraising platforms where people can “click a couple buttons and give instantly.” He said donations are tax-deductible. 

  • State officials created a COVID-19 reporting hotline for people to report situations and groups or organizations they believe are dangerous. Beshear said this could be groups not engaging in social distancing or businesses not abiding by CDC guidelines. The hotline is 1-833-KYSAFER or 1-833-597-2337. The hotline will be staffed from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. by labor cabinet employees. People can also leave messages after hours. He said the hotline received roughly 2,000 last night.

  • Beshear said the state is taking “security measures” around hospitals to ensure safety. He said people will see additional law enforcement and National Guard around hospitals.

  • Beshear encouraged all radio and TV stations to do public service announcements. He said Kentucky needs more encouragement about social distancing and recommended stations pull information from the kycovid19.ky.gov website.

  • The state is going to be conducting a survey of outpatient surgical centers for their supplies and staff. Beshear said it's something the state is doing so it can “marshal every single resource at a time of need.”

  • The state is closing non-essential retail businesses to in-person traffic. These include entertainment, sporting goods, clothing, shoes, jewelry, bookstores, florists, furniture and auto dealers. Beshear said these retail businesses can still do curbside and pickup and urged them to be “innovative.” He said stores unaffected by this order are grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, drug stores, liquor stores, hardware stores, agriculture supply and equipment stores and auto repairs and parts stores. Beshear said these stores still need to follow CDC guidelines and “spread people out.” He said auto dealers will still be able to provide repairs and parts and can only do sales if the interaction is complete online or over the phone. 

  • The state is mandating medical facilities cease elective procedures. He said the vast majority of providers have responded to the state’s recommendation voluntarily. 

  • Kentucky has issued a state of emergency that Beshear said will last until COVID-19 is “taken care of.”  He said the state’s emergency management operations center is up, as well as the state health operations center. 

  • The state established the COVID-19 hotline and a website providing updates on the virus for Kentuckians. People who are sick but would have not sought care should  contact their healthcare provider to prevent flooding of health care facilities. People who have questions about the virus call the COVID-19 Hotline at (800) 722-5725.

  • A price gouging order is in effect. Kentuckians who have any information regarding possible price gouging should dial (888) 432-9257 for the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection hotline.

  • Officials adjusted state government sick leave policy to ensure sick employees stay at home. Beshear said businesses should do the same. He encouraged all businesses to allow employees to work from home if at all possible. 

  • The state published CDC guidelines with warnings for sick individuals. Beshear said people over the age of 60 or people with heart, lung or kidney disease; compromised immune systems; or diabetes should be extremely careful and avoid places with crowds. He said Kentuckians should not fly if they don’t have to and that no one should get on a cruise ship. CDC guidelines say everyone should be engaged in social distancing. 

  • Beshear issued an executive order to waive copays, deductibles, cost-sharing and diagnostic testing fees for private insurance and state employees. He said the state has issued executive orders and worked in Medicaid to make sure COVID-19 testing and treatment is free.

  • Beshear signed an executive order to allow pharmacists to refill prescriptions for up to 30 days.

  • The state closed all state prisons to visitors.

  • Beshear said the state closed restaurants and bars to all in-person traffic, except for drive-thru, delivery and, in some instances, take-out.

  • Beshear said the state has limited visitation in “just about every type of facility that works with or for our seniors.” 

  • The state has recommended schools cease in-class activities, including in-person classes. Beshear said this has been extended to April 21 and, as of now, all school districts have complied.

  • Beshear said the state is making sure first responders and health care workers are covered through Kentucky Employers Mutual Insurance. The insurance provides wage replacement benefits for first responders and medical personnel who have been quarantined for COVID-19.

  • Child care centers are closed with the exception of those helping healthcare workers and first responders. 

  • The state postponed primary elections, moving voting to June 23.

  • The state issued an executive order to close all public-facing businesses that encourage public congregation.

  • Beshear said the state has waived the waiting period for unemployment insurance and continues to work to reduce the barriers to unemployment. Beshear said they are working on unemployment for independent contractors and small business owners.

  • The federal government’s Small Business Administration has granted Kentucky application to allow small businesses to get disaster loans. Beshear said SBA’s website is fixed and small businesses can now apply online for the disaster loans they need. SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans applications can be completed and filed online at www.sba.gov/disaster.

  • All Kentuckians on the Grand Princess cruise ship were brought back home.

  • The state provided a three-month extension on driver’s licenses.

  • Beshear said the state is extending Medicaid, SNAP and other benefits: “If it’s running out and you would have to reapply in the next couple of months, you don’t have to.” He said the state is re-upping people on those benefits for a three-month period.

  • The state has suspended all charitable gaming licenses. 

  • The state has issued a formal letter banning all mass gatherings.

  • The state is delaying the tax filing deadline by three months from April 15 to July 15.

Dalton York and Hannah Bullard contributed to this report. 
 

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