FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) — Gov. Andy Beshear has held his last regular COVID-19 briefing, signaling a shift in Kentucky’s recovery from the pandemic. Republicans have sent a resolution to his desk to go ahead and end the Commonwealth’s state of emergency. They have said it’s about ending restrictions, but the governor argues it will cost Kentuckians food benefits too.
“Senate Joint Resolution 150 is politics at its worst,” Beshear told FOX 56. During his Monday briefing, Beshear said the state continues to move in the right direction against COVID.
He reported the positivity rate is down to 4.17% and the state has recorded seven straight weeks of declining cases. But Beshear argued the emergency is not over and that the supply chain is punishing struggling families. He said ending the COVID state of emergency will cause the state to lose out on $50 million in SNAP benefits.
“The federal government is currently providing these extra benefits because COVID hasn’t just hit us in terms of health and infection it has impacted supply chains, which have caused the price of food to increase so that struggling family is currently paying more for the same amount of food than they were before the pandemic,” Beshear said.
The resolution would terminate Beshear’s state of emergency effective March 7. It had been extended through April 14, but Beshear argued the current state of emergency doesn’t impose any restrictions and there have been no COVID-related restrictions mandated in Kentucky in six months.
In a statement, Senate President Robert Stivers said the General Assembly has “no intent to impair or delay the ability of the Commonwealth to receive any federal stimulus or pandemic-related funds or services.” Stivers added. “If the governor needs something from the legislature, he still has time to come to us and we have time to respond,” and suggested a route with public input and legislative oversight.
“It certainly sounds like someone saying they wouldn’t have robbed the bank if the security guard had stopped them,” Beshear responded.
Beshear said terminating the state of emergency was not had been prior discussed with leadership the last time it was extended.
“We asked the executive order to be extended for the purpose of getting federal funds through the end of the year. The legislature said we’ll do it to the end of the session and we’ll talk then. There was no agreement this thing was going to be over in April,” he said.
Beshear signaled he will likely veto the resolution this week. Republicans have said they have the numbers to overturn it and if they do Beshear said current laws will prevent him from signing another Covid-related executive order.
Beshear said he still plans to hold weekly Team Kentucky briefings, but clarified Monday briefings dedicated solely to COVID have concluded.
A full statement from Stivers is below.
As the Governor evaluates Senate Joint Resolution 150, which is legislation expiring the COVID-19 State of Emergency effective upon his signature or the General Assembly’s potential veto override, it is important to note that he already agreed to end his two-year State of Emergency on April 14 as evidenced by his signature to Senate Bill 25 on January 14. While SJR 150 ends the emergency a month earlier than SB 25, it also explicitly states that the General Assembly has no intent “to impair or delay the ability of the Commonwealth to receive any federal stimulus or pandemic-related funds or services.”
The Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federally funded food and nutrition assistance service available to eligible Kentuckians. While the Governor claims his signature on an executive order declaring a State of Emergency is the only remedy that can secure extended pandemic-related SNAP benefits, we note that a Statement of Emergency is provided through the emergency administrative regulation process.
The Governor still uses his pen to sign the Statement of Emergency on the regulation, and the public is afforded the opportunity to engage in public hearings with adequate legislative oversight. If the governor needs something from the legislature, he still has time to come to us and we have time to respond.Senate President Robert Stivers