Beshear disperses more than $21 million dollars for tornado recovery during Mayfield visit
Governor Andy Beshear visited Mayfield Tuesday to announce the dispersal of more than $20 million in state aid for recovery five months after the December tornado outbreak.
Beshear presented checks to the City of Mayfield, Mayfield Electric and Water, the Graves County Hickory and Industrial Park and three nonprofit groups. Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan spoke highly of the governor and his efforts to help with recovery.
“We've come a long way in five months,” O’Nan said. “On that day, we stood there, there was a lot of despair around. We were still shell shocked at what had happened. But, today, I look around and at your faces, but more importantly, I look around and I'll just see hope everywhere I look.”
The Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund has collected more than $51 million in the five months since the tornado and given out more than $11 million. The state has given out 93 travel trailers for medium-term housing for those who lost their homes in the outbreak. Additionally, almost every person staying in a state park who lost their home to the tornado outbreak has been placed in alternative housing.
More than $4 million of the funding presented to Mayfield came from the West Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergency (SAFE) fund.
“This is funding I recommended, your representative fought for and it was appropriated through the General Assembly through Senate Bill 150, which was finally opened up a little more,” Beshear said. “And I signed that in April.”
The first appropriation of SAFE Funds in Graves County went to the City of Mayfield, which was given $2.8 million dollars. O’Nan praised Beshear’s determination to help the city.
“I was so worried we'd go bankrupt,” O’Nan said. “I knew how much money we had and what our budget was and, my goodness, we lost so much and he said, ‘I will not let you go bankrupt.’”
The next appropriation of SAFE Funds went to Mayfield Electric and Water Systems, who worked in the immediate aftermath of the storms to restore infrastructure .
“Mayfield Electric and Water were out there in full force working as hard as they could to get people back up in some semblance of normalcy, to be able to have water that comes out of that tap or electricity to see our way around,” Beshear said.
MEWS received $2 million in SAFE Funds. General Superintendent Marty Ivy said the tornado took out 20 of the department’s buildings.
“We really appreciate these guys, they worked hard to help us get through this,” Ivy said. “We're six to 10 years probably from being back to where we want to be, but we'll get there, and especially with the help that we received.”
Kentucky House District 2 Representative Richard Heath was one of the legislators who advocated for the SAFE Funds bill. He said partisanship went out the window when it came to getting the bill with these funds passed.
“I'm thankful for the bipartisanship. It had to come together from the governor's office, to the house to the Senate,” Heath said. “We all had to work. The Ds and the Rs went out the windows. It was never brought up. It was never mentioned.”
The Graves County Hickory Industrial Park also received $230,000 from the Product Development Initiative.
“A lot of what we are providing now is going to help with rebuilding some of our city areas, our utilities, it's going to help with some of the cleanup costs,” Beshear said. “It's a challenge, but we've already shown we're up to it. We are tough … [but] we need another thing. We need hope. We need jobs. We need people to know that there is a big bright future here.”
In addition to the more than $4 million given out, $16 million were given from the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund to support work being done by Kentucky Habitat for Humanity, the Mayfield-Graves Fuller Center for Housing, and Homes and Hope for Kentucky. The funds will support the building of 300 homes in the area impacted by the December tornado outbreak.
“This is the single biggest expenditure to date in the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund,” Beshear said. “It will not be our last. It is going to continue to help in the rebuilding. It's going to continue to help where we find those needs. This is a special partnership.”