Lawmakers question distribution of Ky. relief funds
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - What is happening with the money collected for tornado and flood survivors? That was the question on the minds of several Kentucky lawmakers Wednesday night.
Tens of millions of dollars were collected in the Team Western Kentucky Fund and the Team Eastern Kentucky Fund to help tornado and flood survivors.
We know the money was used to pay funeral costs, but on Thursday, lawmakers wanted to know where else the money is going.
Wednesday morning, legislators questioned how private donations to the Western and Eastern Kentucky Relief Funds were getting into the hands of the affected individuals.
“We’re talking about money that were donated out of the goodness of people’s hearts and kindness following the tornado disaster in December of 2021 and the floods in the spring of last year,” said Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Fayette.
DJ Wasson and Jacob Walbourn represent the Public Protection Cabinet, the agency tasked with handling and dispersing the millions of dollars collectively raised following both disasters. Under Senate Bill 99, passed this year, they’re required to present this report to a research committee annually.
And these legislators have questions.
“There were 35 families. You’re shaking your head like you know this. But they say still to this day they haven’t received a dime,” said Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-Jefferson. “They still don’t know why. They said they were given the complete run around from you guys.”
“I would respectfully disagree. We did speak with them. In that Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund, we have some pretty limited funds with a lot of needs,” said Public Protection Cabinet Chief of Staff DJ Wasson.
According to the Team Kentucky Website, to date, $13.2 million has been raised in flood relief and $52.3 million in tornado relief.
Wasson says from both funds, the first expenses taken care of were funeral costs. Then they prioritized the fund distribution based on housing needs.
“I would candidly tell you, I don’t think we’ve been approached by a program we haven’t found a way to support. We’ve worked with everyone who attempted to approach us to get money,” said Public Protection Cabinet General Counsel Jacob Walbourn. “In terms of weighted criteria, no, there is not weighted criteria. In terms of taking feedback from people on the ground about what is actually needed, I do think we’ve engaged in that process.”
Those with the Public Protection Cabinet say individuals can apply for assistance. Then the agency verifies their claims through FEMA and/or their insurance companies.
Some legislators say they still have people approach them who say they’ve never received assistance.
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