Whitesburg KY

UNITE wants coal funds

A bill allowing Operation UNITE to continue providing uninterrupted services to communities through mid-year was introduced this week in the Kentucky Senate.

Senate Bill 97 would allocate $450,000 from a $12 million pool of money in the Multi County Economic Regional Development Fund, which is comprised of revenue from the coal severance tax, Sen. Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said. The bill is being co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Jensen (R-London).

The legislation will carry an emergency clause allowing it to take effect upon the governor’s signature.

Fifth District U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers explained that UNITE’s recent decision to scale back its staff by 10 law enforcement officers and one employee each from the education and treatment components was caused by “some bumps” in the federal budget. Congress appropriated no earmarks for any program during the current federal fiscal year and provided only $4.1 million to UNITE for next fiscal year.

“That’s why we turned to our friends in the state legislature,” Rogers said. “Senators Stivers and Jensen are taking that lead.”

Stivers said he spoke to Gov. Steve Beshear earlier this week and was “pretty confident” about the bill’s chances. “I can’t guarantee anything, but we are going to be up there and working on it.”

Barring any unforeseen snags, SB 97 could move swiftly through the legislative process and be sent to the governor by the end of January.

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