Gov. Beshear Marks 6-Month Milestone in Tornado Recovery

Kentucky has made great strides, continues efforts at rebuilding communities as Governor heads to Mayfield Friday to celebrate first fully constructed new homes

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 9, 2022) – Ahead of the six-month anniversary of the December tornadoes that devastated Western Kentucky and took the lives of 81 Kentuckians, Gov. Andy Beshear shared the progress the state has made in providing relief and recovery support to the families, businesses and communities impacted by the storms.

The Governor said, to date, it is estimated that federal, state and Red Cross disaster assistance efforts total more than $193.4 million – with the Commonwealth of Kentucky efforts representing more than $108 million in awards through the SAFE Act Fund and the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund – and nearly 2,600 individuals have been housed through emergency programs.

On Friday, six months from the date of the tornadoes, the Governor will travel to Mayfield to help celebrate the first fully constructed new homes.

“Tomorrow will be a special day when we celebrate the progress we’ve made, but we also will continue to remember and lift up the 81 lives lost and their families and communities,” said Gov. Beshear. “I will never forget the promise I made to the people of Western Kentucky the morning after the tornadoes hit, which is that we will be there until every home and life is rebuilt. We are keeping that promise. We not only have made substantial progress, but we are also continuing our efforts to ensure these communities have a hopeful, bright future.”

Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund
To ensure that charitable donations to support storm victims would go directly to legitimate causes, the Governor quickly established the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund to supplement the recovery and relief efforts. Donations poured in from around the world, raising more than $52 million dollars to date. More than $26 million in disbursements have been made so far, with funding going toward funeral expenses, support for uninsured homeowners and renters and nonprofit home builders.

On May 10, Gov. Beshear announced that $16 million from the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund would be used to help provide up to 300 homes for families whose homes were lost to the storms. Working with the state’s Public Protection Cabinet, which administers the fund, nonprofit groups Habitat for Humanity, Homes and Hope for Kentucky and The Fuller Center for Housing submitted proposals to build up to 100 homes each. Homes will be built in the counties that were eligible for individual and household assistance through FEMA.

West Kentucky State Aid for Emergencies Fund
Ahead of the recent legislative session, Gov. Beshear recommended appropriations for the West Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies (SAFE) fund, and the 2022 General Assembly supported the aid through Senate Bill 150. The Governor signed the bill into law on April 15, $56 million in assistance has helped shelter victims, support impacted schools and provide local rebuilding assistance.

The Governor said, “These funds will help cover expenses and services that are not eligible for FEMA aid, and they will help ease some of the financial burdens that these communities have endured.”

To date, $9 million has been approved and spent for travel trailers and $9.5 million has been awarded to schools to provide wrap-around services for students and their families. The school funding will also help support after-school services and activities, mental health counseling services and outside-of-school tutoring. Funds also supported school transportation needs and construction and repairs of school building facilities either destroyed or damaged.

In total, $37.5 million has been awarded to impacted counties to cover services not eligible for FEMA support and to ease some of the financial strain endured during the rebuilding and clean-up efforts. Of that total, the Governor announced $16.3 million in SAFE funding awards today, including:

  • $1.2 million for land survey costs to the city of Dawson Springs;
  • $15 million for financial assistance to Mayfield Electric & Water Systems; and
  • More than $61,000 for financial assistance and nearly $115,000 for wet debris removal to Muhlenberg County.

The Governor noted that there is still more than $80 million in SAFE Funds remaining to be distributed.

Emergency Housing Response
In total, nearly 2,600 individuals were housed by programs offered through the state, the Red Cross and FEMA.

Days after the tornadoes hit, Gov. Beshear opened seven Kentucky State Parks to first responders and Kentuckians who lost their homes. More than 800 individuals and 250 first responders were provided shelter and food services through the parks system.

“I want to personally thank our incredible parks employees and the volunteers who worked so hard to feed and house our Western Kentucky families in their greatest time of need,” the Governor said. “They are true members of Team Kentucky and we appreciate their dedication and compassion.”

The state also established the Commonwealth Sheltering Program, administered through Kentucky Emergency Management and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Over 580 people were placed in more than 100 travel trailers and hotels. These medium-term housing solutions were used to ultimately help transition survivors to long-term solutions.

The Kentucky Housing Corporation has also created an interactive online database of available rental units to help survivors find long-term housing solutions. The United Way and Catholic Charities have also been instrumental in connecting survivors to needed resources.

In addition to the state’s efforts, the Red Cross sheltered over 890 survivors in hotels and also provided over 105,000 meals. FEMA also provided housing for 54 households.

FEMA and Red Cross Response
Immediately following the tornadoes on Dec. 10, 2021, Gov. Beshear requested and received the fastest presidential approval of a major disaster declaration in history. In total, 16 counties were designated for federal assistance: Barren, Caldwell, Christian, Fulton, Graves, Hart, Hickman, Hopkins, Logan, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Taylor and Warren.

FEMA also set up 18 in-person disaster centers, with seven fixed sites and 11 mobile centers across those 16 counties. These sites assisted 7,327 individuals from Dec. 20, 2021, through March 19, 2022. This was in addition to FEMA teams going door to door to the impacted communities to assist survivors with the application process for federal assistance.

FEMA approved a total of $81.9 million in federal disaster assistance on June 1, along with $15.5 million for individuals and households, including housing, repair and rental assistance.

A total of 640 disaster loans were approved through the U.S. Small Business Administration for homeowners, renters and businesses, totaling more than $58.4 million.

To view more services provided to storm victims, view FEMA’s 6-month milestone at a glance sheet.

In addition to FEMA, the American Red Cross provided over $3.5 million in financial assistance to survivors through various programs.

“We are grateful to the federal government and all of the organizations and nonprofits who have stepped up to help our Western Kentucky families and businesses,” said the Governor.

Federal Coordinating Officer Brett Howard, who is leading the federal recovery operation, noted that FEMA is just one source of assistance. Disaster funding has also come from the state, local and other federal partners, non-profits, corporations and private donors. Insurance funds are flowing to individuals and communities for rebuilding. The funding from all sources means that federal and state agencies must coordinate to ensure they are not paying double for the same work. Howard said these priorities are made easier by a strong partnership with state counterparts.

“The commonwealth has really stepped up and taken care of their citizens,” Howard said. “I’ve never seen anything like it: from funeral expenses, rebuilding … they are working hard every day.”

First Lady’s Western Kentucky Christmas Toy Drive
As Christmas 2021 fell just weeks after the tornadoes hit, First Lady Britainy Beshear quickly launched the Team Western Kentucky Christmas Toy Drive. Nearly 10 tractor-trailer trucks full of toys and gift cards were donated and collected during the weeks leading up to the holiday, bringing much-needed light and hope to families during this difficult time.

“To every person who contributed to the toy drive, thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” said First Lady Britainy Beshear. “There was no better gift Christmas morning than knowing Santa had made it to visit every Western Kentucky family. With the generosity of so many, and the assistance of tireless volunteers, we even made toy deliveries after the drive had ended – on Christmas Eve!”

Debris Removal
Since the Dec. 10 tornadoes, crews have worked day and night to remove more than 2.5 million cubic yards of debris from 19 counties.

“To put this incredible accomplishment into context, a tandem dump truck carries about 10 cubic yards of debris in each load, so the 2.5 million removed is roughly equal to 250,000 truckloads,” said Gov. Beshear.

Debris removal continues in impacted counties, with SAFE funding helping to support those efforts.

Kentucky Emergency Management Director Jeremy Slinker said, “Together, we are committed to meeting the needs of all people impacted by the storms as long as is necessary.”

“Although this is the worst natural disaster is Kentucky’s modern history, the rebuilding and recovery effort have truly taken a total team effort and much progress has been made,” Gov. Beshear said. “This work will continue until we rebuild every structure and every life.”