Beshear seeks one more month of pandemic food benefits

Earlier this month, Republicans overrode Gov. Andy Beshear's veto of their resoltuion to end the COVID-19 state of emergency. Beshear said it would take food benefits from Kentuckians. Re

On March 21, Republicans in Kentucky’s legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of their resolution ending the COVID-19 state of emergency about a month early, and with it an extra $100 a month in food benefits for 544,000 Kentuckians, who will revert to the standard $243 monthly benefit.

Senate President Pro Tem David Givens of Greensburg said any state could apply for an extra month of the benefits after the end of its emergency, but Beshear said there had to be a state-declared state of emergency.

Technically, they were both right. Now Beshear has requested an extra month of additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, formerly called food stamps, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

State spokesman Brice Mitchell told Kentucky Health News that the state asked for the one-month “phase-out” extension of the benefits on Monday, March 28, a week after the legislature overrode his veto.

“Since the General Assembly voted to end food assistance for nearly 500,000 Kentuckians, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is notifying the USDA today that a transition period is now needed for April to notify recipients that their benefits are ending May 1,” Mitchell said in an e-mail. “If the General Assembly would have not taken this action, the cabinet would have been able to have requested that the benefits continue beyond May 1.”

The emergency had been scheduled to end on April 14.

After the legislature overrode the veto of Senate Joint Resolution 150, Beshear said it would take benefits from Kentuckians, because it had barred him from declaring another emergency.

He said on March 24, “We could have continued to provide, at no cost to the Commonwealth, extra dollars to help kids and seniors afford food that costs more than before the pandemic. So what this legislature said is no more help. We’re going to go back to giving you the same amount pre-pandemic, even though things cost more.”

Beshear didn’t respond directly to a question asking him if he had investigated the federal guidance that Givens alluded to, instead saying the state needed an emergency declaration to continue the benefits. He said the resolution was passed for political reasons, and “It’s not worth any political point that someone’s trying to make to take food off the table of those that need it.”

The sponsor of SJR 150 is Sen. Donald Douglas of Nicholasville, who was elected in a special election in December and is opposed in the May 17 Republican primary by Andrew Cooperrider of Lexington, who was a fervent opponent of anti-pandemic measures and has said the bill is designed to boost the candidacy of Douglas, a more mainstream candidate.

Senate President Robert Stivers issued a statement on March 22 criticizing the governor’s desire to continue the emergency benefits.

“Twenty-eight states have already declared the end of the emergency, as well as the U.S. Senate,” Stivers said. “Continuing to operate under a false emergency for the sake of pulling down federal dollars is simply fraudulent and unethical.”

Beshear seeks one more month of pandemic food benefits

Kentucky Health News

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.