Lawmakers in Kentucky have raised concerns about the management of two disaster relief funds established by Governor Andy Beshear
Members of the Budget Review Subcommittee on General Government, Finance, Personnel, and Public Retirement questioned Public Protection Cabinet (PPC) officials regarding why the agency was chosen to oversee the funds instead of the Finance and Administration Cabinet or Emergency Management.
State Senator Chris McDaniel expressed his confusion over the decision, noting that the PPC is not typically responsible for disaster relief or finance matters. In response, PPC Chief of Staff D.J. Wasson and General Counsel Jacob Walbourn stated that they were not involved in the decision-making process and did not offer an opinion on the matter. Wasson mentioned that the agency did have some experience managing funds and justified its involvement by emphasizing the need for all hands on deck during a disaster.
The handling of the funds has raised questions since their establishment, particularly regarding the distribution of funds to individuals who were not directly affected by the December 2021 storms
State Representative Ken Fleming inquired whether the cabinet or the Beshear Administration had reviewed an ethics commission opinion from 2016, which outlines guidelines for state agencies soliciting donations. Walbourn stated that he did not believe the idea had been reviewed.
State Senator Amanda Mays Bledsoe expressed concerns about transparency and the distribution of funds, emphasizing the expectations of donors who selflessly contributed to the relief funds. To address these concerns, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 99 during this year’s session, which called for an audit of the funds and subsequent reporting by the cabinet. The audit aims to shed light on the management and allocation of disaster relief funds, providing accountability and transparency to the donors and the public at large.