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Utility funding to assist Kentuckians in COVID-19 financial crisis

January 31st, 2021

Representative Nancy Tate

Legislators return to Frankfort for the second half of the 30-day session on February 2 and will spread the remaining days over six weeks until we adjourn on March 30. While the budget will be at the top of our agenda, we will also consider legislation aimed at addressing the economic, educational, and financial fallout from the COVID pandemic and the state’s response to it.

In the meantime, we must work together to ensure Kentuckians across the state have access to basic needs, including utilities and rent. Almost a year after the pandemic started, the consequences of the mandatory shutdowns can be measured in a doubling of the unemployment rate, shuttered businesses, and exponential growth in reliance on government-provided health insurance.

The economic impact can also be seen in the dramatic increase in past due utility bills and late rent payments – which reflects the financial problems of customers and places landlords and utility companies in a precarious position. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the Governor issued moratoriums on evictions. The current one expires January 31, but is anticipated to be extended again. While the executive order preventing utility shutoffs expired in early November, many are still struggling to pay their bills and it has taken a toll on smaller, locally and publically owned utilities.

Limited relief is now available through $38 million in funding from the Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Response program, established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Each unit of local government has the opportunity to request up to $200,000 for assistance in its communities.

Kentucky households are eligible for up to $250 per month for six consecutive months if they fall under the following requirements:
• They live in a city or county approved for funding;
• Have been financially impacted by COVID-19;
• Are struggling to pay water, sewer, electric, gas, or other heating and cooling bills; and
• Have received notice for a disconnection between January 21, 2020, and present-day, or up to two months following.

This aid follows a previous grant of $15 million of federal CARES Act funding, which is estimated to have helped over 63,000 individuals in more than 26,000 households through December of last year.

We are all anticipating another round of utility relief as Congress passed the Coronavirus Relief Package. It is expected to provide nearly $297 million to Kentuckians to protect tenants from evictions and utility disconnections. We must be strategic in how we allocate funds and how monies will be spent. What we don’t want to do is waste money on programs that don’t benefit anyone. Arbitrary deadlines and rules wasted CARES Act funding that could have gone to helping Kentuckians. My colleagues and I know the daunting task that awaits us when we reconvene next week. But I assure you our priority is getting the supports Kentuckians need to get back to work and on their feet.

To get more information on the Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Response funds, contact your local government or the Kentucky Council of Area Development Districts. Local governments can apply for the funds now by completing the application on Department for Local Government’s website.

During tumultuous times, it is an honor and a privilege providing our district with a voice. If you need assistance, please feel free to contact me during the week from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. EST through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181 or by contacting me via e-mail at [email protected] You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature’s Home Page at www.legislature.ky.gov.