FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Andy Beshear signed tornado-relief legislation Thursday that will trigger an immediate infusion of aid for schools and residents left homeless by deadly storms that hit Kentucky last month.
Beshear and lawmakers said more rounds of assistance will be forthcoming in response to the December storms that devastated several communities in western Kentucky and elsewhere in the state. The death toll from the storms reached 77 in Kentucky.
The Democratic governor signed the fast-track legislation a day after the bipartisan measure cleared the Republican-dominated legislature during the second week of this year's session.
"I’m proud that we've all worked together to respond to meet the needs of these families," Beshear said before gathering with a group of lawmakers for the bill signing. “But we know that it's going to take a long time — a year, maybe two — to not just dig out but to rebuild.”
The relief measure includes $200 million of assistance requested by the governor.
The bill will pump an initial $45 million into communities, with $15 million for temporary housing and $30 million for schools. The school aid will be used to repair damaged schools and for such services as after-school programs, mental health counseling and transportation for displaced students.
More rounds of aid will be allocated later for other recovery needs.
Republican state Rep. Richard Heath, whose western Kentucky district was hard hit by the storm, thanked the governor for his quick response and continued focus on the recovery.
“I think this shows the bipartisan effort that's needed,” he said. “And we all know that natural disasters don't know the difference between Democrat and Republican.”
In the nation's capital, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell noted his home state's relief package as he spoke about the arduous recovery ahead.
“This will be a long process," McConnell said in a speech Thursday. “It’ll require consistent support on the local, state and federal levels.”
McConnell promised to be involved "every step of the way.”
The legislation is House Bill 5.