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WKYT Investigates | How the Team Western Ky. Tornado Relief Fund money is being spent

It’s been nearly four months since deadly tornadoes hit western Kentucky. After the storms passed, the commonwealth was ready to help, collectively raising...
Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 5:36 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - It’s been nearly four months since deadly tornadoes hit western Kentucky. After the storms passed, the commonwealth was ready to help, collectively raising $51 million for relief. But, less than $10 million have been spent.

According to a document from the state, $9.6 million have been distributed. The majority have gone to insured deductible payments, but families in ravaged communities, like Mayfield, are wondering when the rest of that money will be sent out to help them rebuild.

It was a night Bruce Dobyns will never forget.

“Honest to God we thought we were going to die that night,” Dobyns said, who lives in Mayfield.

December 10 changed the landscape of western Kentucky forever. Homes and buildings were torn apart, and 80 lives were lost.

“Sit there staring at the bathroom ceiling, praying and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. I was just waiting for it to go,” Dobyns said.

His home on the outskirts of Mayfield still stands, but so many others are gone. The landscape of the small community is nothing what it was on December 9, and the look changes every day.

“It’s strange from when it first happened because there were piles. Now they’ve hauled off so much stuff, places you knew, all city, commercial or residential are just empty,” Dobyns said. “You can see five or six blocks through downtown and there’s nothing.”

It’s another phase of the extensive cleanup process that these communities are learning won’t be finished for many years.

“I think there is a lot of people that are stuck in the deep dark hole and can’t get back out. ‘We don’t have money, we don’t have insurance, I don’t know what to do. where am I going to go?’” Dobyns said.

In the days after the tornadoes, Governor Andy Beshear announced the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund. It’s since raised more than $51 million, but $41.3 million is still in the account, while families in Dobyns’ community are wondering why it’s not gone out faster

“I think the biggest problem, even with the best hearts, and the governor and the state legislature and everything else, bureaucracy is bureaucracy, and it never moves fast enough,” Dobyns said.

It’s a process these communities are anxious to get through, as they focus on rebuilding their lives in the place they call home.

The governor’s office said the next step to disbursing the money is working with nonprofits and organizations to help people with housing.

Beshear said this fund is really for medium and long-term rebuilding, and once they are partnered with organizations, the money will go out much faster.

A breakdown of expenses shows more than 6,500 payments to families have been made from the relief fund.

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