Beshear signs Juneteenth National Day of Freedom Proclamation

Beshear committed to asking the legislature to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday through legislation. The legislature would have to pass the measure during the next general assembly.
by Hannah Bullard,

During his Thursday press conference, Governor Andy Beshear reported coronavirus case numbers as manageable, addressed unemployment concerns and ceremonially signed a proclamation recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth National Day of Freedom in the Commonwealth.

Beshear explained Juneteenth as a day that is recognized when Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas to bring news the Civil War had ended, and to read General Order No. 3, that stated in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, all enslaved people are free.

It is more and more important that we remind everybody of this dark chapter in our history and that its impacts continue to linger, and that we celebrate the dates that at least portions of it ended.

– Gov. Andy Beshear

“Sadly, we have seen the frustration of hundreds of years of ramifications of slavery,  discrimination of Jim Crow segregation. It is more and more important that we remind everybody of this dark chapter in our history and that its impacts continue to linger, and that we celebrate the dates that at least portions of it ended,” Beshear said. “So today, I’m going to sign a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth. I believe it’s the first time that it’s been recognized.”

Beshear committed to asking the legislature to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday through legislation. The legislature would have to pass the measure during the next general assembly. 

Executive Secretary of the Cabinet Michael Brown read the proclamation:

“June 19 became the emancipation date of enslaved African Americans who had long suffered and fought for freedom, justice and equality. And whereas throughout America, Juneteenth celebrations are convened on June 19, to celebrate African American History, journey and culture. And whereas Juneteenth commemorates the strength and courage of African Americans, the contributions of African Americans to the building of American institutions, wealth, innovations, and their ultimate triumph over extreme adversity through sheer determination, an overwhelming tenacity and whereas Kentuckians must continue to work toward a more equitable and just Commonwealth while recognizing the horrors of slavery. And whereas recognition of Juneteenth reflects the Commonwealth resounding belief in liberty and equality for every citizen. Now therefore, I, Andy Beshear, Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, do hereby proclaim June 19, 2020, as Juneteenth National Freedom Day in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

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Coronavirus cases

Beshear reported 234 new coronavirus cases in his June 18 update. He said although the number of daily coronavirus cases is up from Wednesday, the number of cases reported is still in a “manageable area.” The official state number of cases is 13,197. 

“Remember, while these numbers aren’t in an area where we still have reopening that is on track, we still have the capacity in our healthcare systems to take care of people,” Beshear said. “We need to continue to follow the healthy at work rules. We need to continue to wear masks and those that aren’t out there, we need you to reconsider. It’s not a test of your manhood whether you wear a mask or not, it’s a test of your compassion.” 

The total number of tests administered in Kentucky is 336,267. According to Beshear, that is over a 6,500 increase since June 17. 

“We can be safer, we can reopen more, we can later look at increasing capacities of different things, if we can keep our testing up, that includes our drive through testing, we’ve got to know some of the asymptomatic rates out there. And we’ve got to be able to catch those cases,” Beshear said.

Beshear reported three coronavirus related deaths during his daily update. The number of Kentuckians who have died due to COVID-19 is 520.

“It’s 520 individuals just since March, and it’s 520 individuals whose families are reeling and need our help,” Beshear said.

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Unemployment concerns

Beshear expressed his frustration with Kentucky’s unemployment system. He said he believes that the state’s unemployment system was designed to deny individuals, and working to change the system has proven difficult. Beshear said during 2017 over half of the unemployment offices across the state were closed. 

“When you develop a system that’s meant to tell people ‘no,’ when you now need to tell people yes, it is much more difficult,” Beshear said. “So, a lot happened in 2017 that we are feeling the brunt of today. I remember this from 2017 when it was announced, 29 unemployment offices were cut, we used to have 51 all over the Commonwealth. They were reduced down to 21.”

Beshear also noted the unemployment office’s budget was cut nearly 50% from $41 million to $25 million in 2018. He said the computer software the unemployment office was operating on was nearly 20 years old.  

“So we take offices that were cut, almost 50%, an antiquated system that was designed to tell people no and claims that went from 190,000 unemployment claims in 2019 all year long to having 900,000 claims in just three months. And it is a perfect storm,” Beshear said. “That results in so many people who have had to wait for far too long and haven’t been helped.” 

Beshear said the unemployment system does not need to be restarted, but has to be rebuilt.  He said there will be a meeting on June 19 for individuals outside of the unemployment system to give their ideas on what type of assistance they can provide. 

“I will take help from anywhere if it gets people’s claims, processed and paid. This is our commitment moving forward. And it’s something that we absolutely have to get done,” Beshear said. 

This report first ran on WKMS.org.

Beshear signs Juneteenth National Day of Freedom Proclamation

WKMS

This story first ran on WKMS, the public radio station at Murray State University.