FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — An infusion of federal funding will help build hundreds of homes in Kentucky communities devastated by tornadoes and floods in 2021, Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday.
Four counties hardest hit by the storms — Graves, Warren, Hopkins and Breathitt — will receive 80% of the more than $123 million in housing assistance allocated by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the governor said at a news conference.
The remainder will be spread among 36 other counties also impacted by the extreme weather.
The funding will help in the recovery from deadly tornadoes that hit portions of western Kentucky in late 2021 and flooding that swamped parts of eastern Kentucky earlier that year.
The federal assistance will go to build an estimated 600 housing units statewide, including houses and rental properties, Beshear said.
“Those are 600 families that just this most recent funding will help ensure they have a roof over their head, that they are back on their feet,” he said.
The governor was joined by Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan, Jackson Mayor Laura Thomas and Hopkins County Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield for the funding announcement.
“Except for the loss of lives, which can never be regained, homes were our greatest loss,” said O’Nan, whose town took a direct hit from a tornado in December 2021. “They can be rebuilt, but it takes a lot of time. And it takes a lot of funding.”
In Hopkins County, also hard hit by the tornadoes that ravaged parts of Kentucky, the funding will “help those so much who may not be able to otherwise afford a new house,” Whitfield said. Thomas said the funding is “desperately needed” as her eastern Kentucky town continues its recovery from flooding.
Beshear praised Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for his work in securing the funding.
“Disaster recovery is not partisan, never should be partisan,” the Democratic governor said. “It should be about our people and how we move forward.”
Applications for the funding will open May 1 for local governments, nonprofits and for-profits wanting to use the funding to build back housing, Beshear said.
Meanwhile, a follow-up announcement is expected in coming weeks in response to massive flooding that inundated large swaths of eastern Kentucky last summer, the governor said. HUD officials have said nearly $300 million will come to Kentucky to assist in the recovery from those floods.