Western Ky. officials still awaiting substantial funding for tornado relief

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HOPKINS CO., Ky. (WFIE) – Nearly 10 months later, and over $9 million spent. Officials say the recovery in western Kentucky has been a long process.

“It’s a huge toll we’ve spent so far to help clean up areas of the county that were impacted by the tornado,” Hopkins County Executive Judge Jack Whitfield said.

Whitfield says the natural disaster triggered a response from senior government officials.

“When the president arrived, he announced a 30-day, 100% money-back program,” Whitfield said. “Which is great, we just haven’t seen that yet.”

Whitfield says the county spent $9.2 million on recovery efforts.

So far, at Hopkins Co., only $200,000 from FEMA has been paid out according to Whitfield.

“The county, we’re in pretty good financial shape, but something like this is unexpected, you can’t budget for it,” Whitfield said.

Officials say Hopkins Co. then took out two loans. One from the State of Kentucky totaling $8 million and another private loan of $6 million.

Whitfield says he’s worried the county won’t see the refund soon.

“Over time, if we don’t start to see some of that payback, we could get into financial pressure,” Whitfield said.

Both loans kept the county afloat through the process, but that money will have to be repaid.

“It wasn’t to pay cleaning bills, it was to help pay our normal daily bills that we have on a regular basis because we spent so much on cleaning,” Whitfield said.

FEMA says it has paid out more than $20 million in reimbursements for cleanup and debris recovery in 23 counties.

“We communicate with FEMA pretty regularly, have different meetings, but they don’t give us a timeline to start seeing that refund,” Whitfield said.

With the severity of storms seemingly increasing every year, FEMA’s resources could become stretched in the future.

“With the flooding in eastern Kentucky and now Hurricane Ian, I think that’s probably going to put even more pressure on FEMA as an organization,” Whitfield said.

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