McConnell downplays need for$2.4 billion aid coming to Kentucky

Published 5:39 am Tuesday, April 6, 2021

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell downplayed a new infusion of federal relief for his home state’s government, questioning the need Monday as the economy looks to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a stop in Lexington, Kentucky, McConnell touted federal pandemic aid passed by Congress last year with bipartisan support — when the GOP held the Senate and White House. The Kentucky senator was dismissive of the latest round of federal relief championed by Democratic President Joe Biden that passed recently over united opposition from congressional Republicans. State government in Kentucky is expected to eventually receive more than $2.4 billion from the newest federal package.

“What we did last year was a big bonus for Kentucky on top of what it needed,” McConnell said. “This is an even bigger bonus. I’m sure they’ll love to have it. But I don’t see that they needed it.”

The state’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, said he disagreed with the senator’s remarks. The latest round of aid will stimulate job growth and upgrade infrastructure in Kentucky, Beshear said.

“It’s a question of: Do you want a long, difficult recession that hurts Kentuckians, that has more people jobless? Or do you want to invest, create jobs and sprint out of this pandemic instead of stumble?” Beshear said at a news conference later Monday.

Kentucky’s tax collections have been strong despite the battering businesses took last year during the pandemic. Kentucky’s highest monthly unemployment rate since the pandemic hit was 16.9% in April 2020. The state’s most recent jobless figure was the 5.2% preliminary rate in February — up 1% from the rate in February 2020, the last month before COVID-19 cases were reported in Kentucky.

The Republican-led Kentucky legislature allocated more than $1 billion of the new federal money on several big-ticket items before ending this year’s session last week. Those items included school construction, water and sewer projects, broadband expansion and repayment of a federal loan that kept the state’s unemployment insurance program afloat.