KENTUCKY (WEHT) – Governor Andy Beshear held a Team Kentucky update on Thursday focusing on continuing stabilization efforts following historic flooding in Eastern Kentucky. Owsley County has been added to the list of impacted areas approved for individual assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The governor also updated Kentuckians on new economic development projects, assistance for nonprofits, the ongoing decline in gas prices, the growing economic impact of Kentucky’s tourism industry and COVID-19. He also named this week’s Team Kentucky All-Stars.

Eastern Kentucky flood update

The governor announced that FEMA has approved individual assistance for Owsley County. The counties currently approved include Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Knott, Letcher, Owsley, Perry and Pike. Currently renters and homeowners in these counties who were affected by the severe storms, flooding and mudslides that began July 26 may apply for individual disaster assistance by visiting one of the in-person mobile registration centers, applying online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800-621-FEMA.

“Let me address something – there are a lot of rumors out there about who qualifies for FEMA or who can apply,” said Gov. Beshear. “Everyone who has been significantly impacted by the flooding in the eight counties approved for Individual Assistance needs to apply for FEMA. It’s a requirement for our travel trailers and it will be a requirement for other programs. Please apply.”

During the press conference, the governor initially reported three missing persons being searched for in relation to the flooding. However, during the conference, it was reported that one had been found. Gov. Beshear said the number of confirmed fatalities remains at 37.

According to a release from Gov. Beshear, 24,100 donations to Team Eastern Kentucky’s flood relief fund have provided $3,426,962.96. So far, $120,000 in funeral payments have been paid to the families of 12 people who died during the floods.

Residents in the seven eastern Kentucky counties that were approved prior to Thursday for individual assistance can begin applying for Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits. Impacted residents can file a claim for DUA benefits through the Kentucky Career Center website or by phone at 502-875-0442.

Scam warning

The governor provided a warning of fraudulent text messages impersonating an official KYTC message sent to several people this week. The text message appears to target flood victims includes a link to submit information related to the waiver of card and registration replacement feeds. The governor warned that although the cabinet may send text messages about driver licensing regional offices, it will never solicit personal information via text. Anyone who submitted any personal information is advised to visit the attorney general website to follow their guidance concerning potential identity theft.

Economic development

The governor highlighted three economic development projects related to Kentucky’s growing electric vehicle industry that are investing over $550 million and plan to create 384 jobs.

On Thursday, Governor Beshear announced the latest electric-vehicle-related investment in Kentucky as LOTTE Aluminum Materials USA LLC will locate an aluminum foil manufacturing operation in Hardin County with a $238.7 million investment to create 122 full-time jobs.

On Tuesday, the governor and Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman congratulated Flottweg Separation Technology Inc. as company representatives and local officials celebrated the groundbreaking of the liquid-solid separation equipment manufacturer’s new warehouse facility in Boone County. The facility is a $1.75 million investment that will create 12 jobs.

Governor Beshear announced on Monday Ascend Elements Inc., a producer of advanced sustainable battery materials made from recycled lithium-ion batteries, will invest $310 million and create 250 jobs in Christian County. The governor noted this is the single largest economic development project in the county’s history.

Nonprofit relief

Governor Beshear announced a $75 million fund to help Kentucky’s nonprofit organizations recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Team Kentucky Nonprofit Assistance Fund will provide one-time direct relief payments, up to $100,000 per eligible nonprofit organization.

Decrease in gas prices

Governor Beshear shared the good news that gas prices have dropped by 70 cents over the last month in the commonwealth. The average price for gas in Kentucky is almost 40 cents lower in the national average of $4.139 according to AAA.

Economic impact of tourism

Governor Beshear and Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Mike Berry announced Kentucky tourism exceeded 2021 expectations with a total economic impact reaching $11.2 billion, generating 83,100 jobs across the commonwealth.

According to a study from Tourism Economics, in 2021, travel confidence rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic in Kentucky, with total visitation recovering to approximately 96% of 2019 volumes.

COVID-19

All 120 Kentucky counties have a COVID-19 Community Level that is medium or high, with roughly two-thirds at a high level. According to data from the CDC, the Omicron BA.5 variant is estimated to cause over 85% of cases in the U.S..

Although the number of Kentuckians hospitalized for COVID-19 has increased over the past several weeks, hospitalizations remain much lower than what was observed during other surges. The governor encouraged those who are sick to stay home to not spread the disease to others.

Team Kentucky All-Stars

Governor Beshear recognized the Kentucky National Guard hoist team and the Kentucky State Police aircraft branch as this week’s Team Kentucky All-Stars.

The governor thanked them for their continued hard work in rescue and recovery efforts following the devastating flooding in Eastern Kentucky. In attendance was Kentucky State Police Captain Brad Austin, commander of the Aircraft Branch, who oversees all air rescue missions for the state police, as well as four Kentucky National Guard hoist soldiers: Chief Warrant Officer 4 Travis Womer, flight medic Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Krull, crew chief Sgt. Robert Lemmon and flight medic Sgt. Ashley Renye.

“We were part of 78 hoist operations in Eastern Kentucky,” said Sgt. Lemmon. “It is important to note that we are neighbors helping neighbors. The special thing about the Kentucky National Guard is that we live here too, so it’s personal when we take part in these missions.”

Governor Beshear also named the Lexington Fire Department Swift Water Crew and Mobile Ambulance Bus Crew as All-Stars and mentioned that he would be visiting them later in the day to acknowledge the heroism in their response and recovery efforts.