State adds CARES money to unemployment, beef processing funds

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky has tried to use the $1.6 billion in Coronavirus Relief funds it has received to help business and industry while also protecting the needy and others most at-risk.

And this week, the governor has approved some additional spending on projects, moves that were praised by some Republicans.

Diuring his daily briefing Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear highlighted more than $1.6 billion in Coronavirus Relief funds the commonwealth has used to support public health, local governments, schools, long-term care facilities, utility and eviction relief, unemployment insurance and more during the pandemic.

Some examples of expenses included $219 million for PPE, testing, contact tracing and public awareness, as well as $102 million to support testing and nurse strike teams at long-term care facilities.

The Governor said that funds cycled through the economy support a balanced budget.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, a Manchester Republican, thanked the governor for using more of the Federal CARES Act funding to help stabilize Kentucky’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. 

“We appreciate the governor hearing us, along with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, in our urgent request to help stabilize the Unemployment Insurance Fund with a portion of the Federal CARES Act funding. We stand ready to continue the conversation on Unemployment Insurance and changes to state law to minimize the cost to Kentucky businesses while protecting this safety net for employees. We urge the governor to place additional funds into the Unemployment Insurance Trust should they be available,” Stivers said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the governor also granted state Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Ryan Quarles’ request $2 million for meat processing.

“Early in the pandemic, many Kentuckians went to the grocery store and for the first time in their lives saw a shortage of meat products on grocery shelves,” Commissioner Quarles said. “That’s why the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board moved in May to develop an incentive program to expand our small meat processors in Kentucky. I learned from Governor Beshear’s press conference that he is fulfilling my request for expanded funding. I look forward to working with the Agricultural Development Board to continue diversifying Kentucky agriculture with these funds and supporting our cattle producers as we fight the pandemic,” Quarles said in a statement.

In the letter to the governor earlier this week, Quarles noted how the shutdown of the American economy resulted in temporary backlogs of meat processing, which led to meat shortages at grocery stores. In May, the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board established a Meat Processing Incentive Program (MPIP) to encourage Kentucky meat processors to expand, reducing reliance on out-of-state meat processors.

Quarles also pointed to states such as Oklahoma, Iowa, Arkansas, and Wyoming as having used CARES Act funding for this purpose.

“The COVID-19 crisis has caused deep economic turbulence across the commonwealth and within our agricultural community,” said Beshear. “This relief will help producers and processors sustain their small businesses, expand their processing capacity and reduce Kentucky’s reliance on other states to keep our grocery meat cases full.”

As the novel coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of a strong agricultural supply chain, the additional $2 million in CARES Act funding will be distributed through the current Meat Processing Investment Program (MPIP). The Kentucky Agricultural Development Board (KADB) previously allocated more than $1.5 million to the program since May, with continued interest from processors. In an effort to process more Kentucky beef, dairy, pork, lamb, sheep, goat and poultry products, the MPIP must distribute the additional CARES Act funds by Dec. 30, 2020.

“This important investment comes at a critical time for agriculture,” said GOAP Executive Director Dorsey Ridley. “Our office will efficiently distribute this necessary funding to help support our food supply system.”

Applicants can receive up to $250,000 on a reimbursement basis under current MPIP guidelines. For more information on the Meat Processing Investment Program, or to apply, visit agpolicy.ky.gov.

In other matters Thursday, Beshear:

— applauded the Department of Fish and Wildlife for providing innovative online educational opportunities for children, parents, caregivers and educators during the pandemic. Salato Wildlife Education Centers Facebook live educational programming and other virtual learning resources can be found on the departments website fw.ky.gov and social media accounts.

— Secretary of the Executive Cabinet, J. Michael Brown, updated Kentuckians on COVID-19 in the commonwealth’s correctional facilities. There have been 1,255 total inmate cases in Department of Corrections (DOC) prisons, 214 of which are active. There have been 221 COVID-19 cases among DOC staffers and 34 of those cases are active. With each positive case, staff or inmate, the DOC works closely with KDPH to determine testing needs.

honored Dr. Mohammad Jawed, a loving father to three daughters, a beloved husband and one of our frontline health care workers. He was only 59 when he passed away Oct. 31 after battling COVID-19 for over a month at the University of Kentucky Medical Center.

“He humbly served the southeastern Kentucky community for over 23 years as a well-respected physician,” said Beshear. “Dr. Jawed truly was a hero, battling multiple myeloma, a cancer that affected his plasma cells, over the last two years while continuing to work as a frontline health care worker, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. He dedicated his life to supporting his family and caring for his patients.”

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