Beshear gives breakdown on $1,000 tornado checks; lawmakers seek more answers
Published 10:03 am Friday, February 10, 2023
Gov. Andy Beshear gave a breakdown of the 10,000 checks in $1,000 increments that were issued in December 2022 to survivors of the west Kentucky tornadoes – and others who say they were sent a check in error – at Thursday’s press conference even as Republican lawmakers begin writing legislation for oversight on future relief funds.
All check recipients were identified as tornado victims who made claims by private insurance companies or FEMA, Beshear said. The recipients were identified by FEMA and insurance companies as having been verified through their systems and having received payments through those entities. No checks were sent to anyone who was not on a FEMA or private insurance list, he said.
“We ensured these measures were in place to make sure every single dollar went directly to survivors,” Beshear said.
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However, the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet (PPC), which issued the checks for the fund, as well as the Kentucky state treasurer’s office, began receiving calls shortly after from people across the state saying they were issued checks in error.
State Treasurer Allison Ball subsequently canceled payment on 193 of the checks.
Beshear’s breakdown of what happened with some of those 193 checks included:
13 (who had died and the check would be reprocessed through estates),
33 (reissued checks),
26 (not fraudulent but returned for other reasons),
6 (wrong name on check) 2 (duplicate checks),
12 (recipient never received check) and
4 (print error on check). That adds up to 115 of the 193 cancelled checks.
“Right now, we only have 19 checks where somebody has communicated with us and suggested fraud,” Beshear said.
The governor defended the handling of the fund.
“As you look at a $52 million fund, if you look at an error or a fraud rate that is at or below 1% for that fund, that is better than any government-run, associated fund you will find anywhere in the United States,” he said. “At the end of the day — like a group from western Kentucky said to us this morning — it meant there was $52 million out there to help rebuild this community.”
The Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund has received $52.3 million from more than 150,000 individuals and organizations. For more about how the money that has been raised and how it has been used, go to: https://secure.kentucky.gov/formservices/Finance/WKYRelief.
Republican lawmakers want more answers about the check snafu and seek more transparency overall when dealing with relief funds.
State Sen. Whitney Westerfield announced Wednesday on Twitter he has filed a bill, Senate Bill 99, to “require the @ppckentucky (the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet) to answer some basic questions, if they can, about the Governor’s Team Kentucky relief funds (West and East), how the money has been spent and how checks went to people … who never applied for them.”
The bill would add an official definition of “relief fund” to state law and direct the state government to provide analysis of and a report on all relief funds created by the state to help entities impacted by emergencies.
The bill requires those reports to be submitted to the Legislative Research Commission at the end of each fiscal year.
State Rep. Jason Petrie of Elkton is working on a bill addressing the tornado relief fund and other “off-budget accounts” held by the state’s executive branch, according to a report in the Herald-Leader. Senate President Robert Stivers told the newspaper he expects that bill would receive wide support in the Senate.