Thousands of donated money sent to people not impacted by WKY tornadoes

Thousands of dollars meant for Western Kentucky tornado victims ended up in incorrect hands.
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 4:28 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Thousands of dollars meant for Western Kentucky tornado victims ended up in incorrect hands.

When mother nature devastated western Kentucky in December 2021, the community looked to others in the commonwealth for a hand-up.

Governor Beshear says more than $52 million of private funds were raised following the deadly tornadoes. Several months ago, his administration authorized $1,000 checks to be sent to victims to help recover and rebuild.

However, some Kentuckians like Teresa Gahman say they received those funds in error.

“I called several numbers,” said Gahman. “I called State of Ky. and I called FEMA, and I just think that it’s very odd and I feel like there’s some major fraud going on and how much more that we haven’t caught?”

Gahman told WPSD in Paducah that she lives in northern Kentucky and has no ties to the damaged areas.

“Boy if I was to not really pay attention and stuck that in my account now, I’m fraud, now I’m committing some kind of fraud.“ she said. “I can see where people would grab it deposit it and think oh you know whatever and not even think twice about it.”

Governor Beshear says their list of names came directly from FEMA and private insurance companies, each who had previously paid out their own funds to victims.

“It appears there have been some mistakes within the insurance companies and within FEMA and we’re working to address those,” said Governor Beshear. “By using their verification system, we didn’t have to pay millions of dollars to independently verify each and every person. What that means is even if there’s 100 checks that we have to pull back, it means millions of extra dollars ended up in people’s pockets.”

The Public Protection Cabinet says they issued 10,040 checks. 184 were canceled, which is about 1.8%. Some required a name change or were returned to sender without explanation.

“These are dollars that we are really blessed that people provided and I feel good about how we put them to use,” said Beshear. “Now we’ll work to find every dollar that went somewhere it shouldn’t have to get it back. But there are a lot of people out there that rightfully received those checks and are helping their families.”

The Public Protection Cabinet says in a call with FEMA, it was confirmed that they received the most recent data, it was filtered appropriately and there is some level of fraud in their system.

The Republican Party of Kentucky sent out a statement Wednesday morning that reads in part:

Private individuals and corporations stepped up to assist Western Kentucky recover from those tornadoes, which brought tragedy and devastation to our state, and the Beshear administration has just been sending out checks willy-nilly.

Sean Southard

He went on to say “A better name for this fund would be ‘Governor Beshear’s Slush Fund.’

WKYT asked the Governor about the statement at the state capitol Wednesday afternoon.

“This money has done a huge amount of work,” said Beshear. “We ought to in a bipartisan way say ‘thank you’ to the donors and it even paid for every funeral. That’s certainly not a slush fund and shame on them for suggesting that.”

Anyone with questions about their check can call the Public Protection Cabinet at (502) 782-2736 or email