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COVID relief bill to give local govts. over $5.2 million


Letcher County local governments will get more than $5.2 million from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was expected to pass the House of Representatives yesterday (Tuesday), according to a list provided by state Representative Angie Hatton.

The money set aside in the bill for governments is intended primarily to reimburse cities and counties across the country for expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to prevent municipal job losses related to lost revenue. The State of Kentucky is to receive $2.441 billion, local governments in the state will get $1.6 billion, of which $445 million will go to metro governments in Lexington and Louisville, counties will receive $866 million, and cities with populations of less than 50,000 will receive $307 million.

In Whitesburg, Mayor James Wiley Craft said he did not yet know what the city could use the money for, and it has not yet made plans for it.

County Judge/Executive Terry Adams said he had not known about the money until Tuesday, but said it will be good for eastern Kentucky.

“It’ll go a long way toward helping our county,” he said.

The money will be allocated to localities here as follows: Letcher County – $4 million; Whitesburg – $512,688; Jenkins – $536,612; Blackey – $39,780; Fleming Neon – $188,329.

The bill largely follows an outline laid out by President Joe Biden before he took office on January 20, but it has had some amendments in the House and Senate. While the House included an increase in the minimum wage to $15/hour, the Senate stripped that provision out after the Senate Parliamentarian ruled it could not be included in a vote that could not be filibustered. The Senate also reduced the unemployment payments passed by the House to $300 from $400, but added a tax exemption on the first $10,200 of benefits.

The main focus is stimulating an economy ruptured by the spread of the coronavirus and the public health emergency it created. The money will be available for use between now and the end of 2024.

Cities and counties can use money in the bill to assist households, small businesses and nonprofits, and aid impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality. They can provide premium pay to eligible employees providing essential services, or grants to eligible employers who have such workers.

The money can be used to provide essential government services that have been cut because of revenue lost during the pandemic, and make “necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.”

The money cannot be used to offset a reduction of state or local taxes, or to pay into pension funds.

Among other things, the bill includes stimulus payments of $1,400 per person to individuals making less than $75,000 and families making less than $150,000, expands the child tax credit and makes it payable monthly to families with qualifying children, and extends the $300/week federal unemployment benefit until Labor Day.

The bill includes money for vaccine distribution and production as well.

The bill passed the House with 219 Democrats voting in favor, and 2 Democrats and 210 Republicans voting against it. Rep. John Yarmuth, D, of Louisville, sponsored the bill.

It passed the Senate on Saturday after a marathon session in which Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin demanded the entire 600-page bill be read aloud. He and the remainder of the Senators, with the exception of one Republican left to make sure that was carried out, left during the reading. That was followed by votes on 509 proposed amendments, most submitted by Republicans in order to slow down passage of the bill, and provide fodder for campaign advertisements. In the end, the bill passed on a vote of 50-49 with all Democrats voting in favor of it, and all but one Republican voting against. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R, Arkansas) was absent to attend a family funeral.

Here’s how Kentucky’s delegation voted:

House

District 1: James Comer
(R) – Nay
District 2: Brett Guthrie
(R) – Nay
District 3: John Yarmuth
(D) – Yea
District 4: Thomas Massie (R) – Nay
District 5: Harold “Hal”
Rogers (R) – Nay
District 6: Andy Barr (R)
– Nay

Senate

Mitch McConnell (R)
– Nay
Rand Paul (R) – Nay

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