Governor visits Washington County;Disaster aid requested, approved by Obama

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By The Staff

Gov. Steve Beshear asked President Barack Obama to declare a major disaster for the commonwealth of Kentucky, following the devastating winter storm that has paralyzed parts of the state and left hundreds of thousands of  Kentuckians without electricity, water and heat.

Moreover, given the breadth of the crisis, the governor is asking the federal government to pick up additional costs incurred for the use of an unprecedented number of National Guardsmen and storm costs that already have exceeded an estimated $45 million. The storm is believed to be the worst natural disaster in modern Kentucky history.

 On Wednesday, Jan. 28, President Obama granted Gov. Beshear’s request for an emergency declaration—the same day it was requested. The declaration paved the way for immediate federal recovery efforts.

 “Beginning on Jan. 26, 2009, and continuing, ice, snow and rain paralyzed the commonwealth,” Gov. Beshear said in the letter today to President Obama. “Fallen trees, debris and power outages have left extremely large groups of people, including the elderly and medically fragile, without essential services. Fatalities have occurred in multiple counties with strong preliminary evidence directly attributing them to this disaster.”

Gov. Beshear’s letter estimates that state and local government storm-related expenditures already have exceeded $45,380,343.10 and are expected to go higher as state and local governments tally their costs. Thus far, 93 counties and 71 cities have declared emergencies.

Typically, under a major disaster declaration, the federal government reimburses 75 percent of local and state governmental expenditures on a range of items, such as overtime for workers, debris removal equipment and the local purchase of generators, among other things.

But Gov. Beshear is asking the federal government to pick up 100 percent of the costs for expenses incurred during the first seven days of the storm. After that time, the reimbursement rate would be 75 percent federal government and 25 percent state and local governments.

In addition, in a separate letter to the President, Gov. Beshear is asking for the National Guard to be placed on federal status. The Guard would remain under the direct control of the governor, but the federal status would allow for expenses incurred, such as payroll, to be paid for by the federal government.

Gov. Beshear is requesting this disaster declaration for public assistance and direct federal assistance for 92 counties, including Washington County.

Gov. Beshear has also requested Hazard Mitigation for the entire state. The commonwealth of Kentucky has an enhanced State Mitigation Plan, which was approved on June 16, 2008. The commonwealth may request individual assistance from the federal government at a future date.

 “We are beginning to make substantial progress in getting communities and people back on their feet,” Gov. Beshear said. “But the scope and severity of this crisis means we still have a lot of work to do and substantial federal assistance will be necessary to help us move forward.