Beshear says COVID resolution would harm a half million Kentuckians

Beshear says COVID resolution would harm a half million Kentuckians

March 16, 2022 0 By Steve Bittenbender

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear strongly hinted Monday he would veto a Senate resolution calling for an early end of the state of emergency regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

He told reporters ending the emergency now would keep vulnerable residents from receiving essential federal assistance.

He said he would likely take action later in the week on Senate Joint Resolution 150, which the House passed March 10. A day later, it went to Beshear’s desk.

Beshear has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to act on the measure. Republican lawmakers would likely have enough votes to override it should he veto it.

A simple majority of members in both chambers is needed for an override. It passed the Senate on Feb. 24 on a 24-8 vote, and last week’s House vote was 75-20.

Describing the resolution as “politics at its worst,” Beshear said the state has not had any COVID-19 restrictions for months.

Beshear would not be able to extend the state of emergency independently. That’s due to the set of laws the General Assembly approved last year and the state Supreme Court upheld. He also could not issue a new state of emergency related to the same pandemic.

Earlier in the session, Beshear signed Senate Bill 25 into law. That bill set April 14 – the same day as the final day of the General Assembly’s 60-day session – as the end of Kentucky’s COVID-19 state of emergency.

State Sen. Donald Douglas, R-Nicholasville, filed the resolution Feb. 18. That resolution called for the state of emergency to end March 7 or whenever it was deemed enacted, either by Beshear’s signature or a veto override.

Critics of the resolution say ending the state of emergency early would cut off access to extended federal supplemental nutritional benefits, better known as SNAP.

While the pandemic is waning from a health standpoint – Beshear said Monday he was suspending the weekly COVID-19 press conferences he’s held at the beginning of the week because the data continued to move in the right direction – the governor said supply chain issues and inflation related to the coronavirus still affects the cost of groceries.

More than 500,000 Kentuckians, he said, are still relying on SNAP assistance.

“These are dollars flowing from the federal government,” Beshear said. “We don’t pay one penny of it here in Kentucky to get the extra help, and I, for one, certainly think our struggling kids and our struggling seniors ought to have enough food.”

Before Beshear’s final, for now at least, COVID-19 press update, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, issued a statement saying the intent behind SJR 150 was not to take away federal stimulus funding.

Lawmakers are set to meet in Frankfort through March 30 and then return for the session’s two final days starting on April 13.

“If the governor needs something from the legislature, he still has time to come to us, and we have time to respond,” Stivers said in his statement.

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