Governor Steve Beshear visited the temporary new home of West Liberty Elementary school and other temporary government service offices during a return visit to West Liberty and Salyersville today.
Following the deadly storms and tornadoes on March 2, Gov. Beshear instructed all state government agencies and Cabinets to assist in coordinating the restoration of government services in West Liberty.
While many counties sustained significant damage in the storms, West Liberty saw most of its main governmental buildings destroyed -- including the current courthouse as well as a new courthouse that was still under construction.
"It's important that the citizens of Morgan County know they will have a place to go to replace a driver's license, register a vehicle, check on child support, or to complete any other task related to state government," said Gov. Beshear. "In many cases, the state has records that are critically important to storm victims, and we want to ensure that those citizens have access to these basic government services as quickly as possible."
The group of state agencies, led by Secretary of the Cabinet Mary Lassiter and the Governor's chief of staff, Mike Haydon, is working alongside the Kentucky Emergency Management Agency and local officials to find appropriate temporary locations for state offices and assist local officials in restoring access to needed services.
Many local government offices now open
State agencies have helped re-establish services for local government offices, including the Morgan County Sheriff, Property Valuation Administrator (PVA), Morgan County Judge-Executive and others.
The offices for both the Morgan County Clerk and the Morgan Circuit Court Clerk are now open in temporary quarters at West Liberty.
Morgan County Circuit Court Clerk Donna Pelfrey and her staff are already processing driver license applications and will soon resume all other services from working space inside the Morehead State University Academic Center at 155 University Drive in West Liberty. The office will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For information on the schedule of court dockets and hearings, contact the Office of Circuit Court Clerk at 606-743-3763.
Morgan County Clerk Randy Williams and his staff are moving into a small construction trailer on the edge of downtown at 195 W. Main St. It has working telephones and electric circuits for the clerk's computers. Williams and his staff will soon move into a larger temporary structure that is being assembled adjacent to the trailer.
Several agencies, including the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Department of Vehicle Regulation and Office of Information Technology; the Administrative Office of the Courts, Kentucky State Police, and Commonwealth Office of Technology worked to help restore operations at both clerks' offices. They re-established basic office connections such as telephone data circuits and land lines, computers and printers.
The Morgan County Judge Executive, PVA, county attorney, water district and Morgan County Emergency Management are working from the old Rifle Coal building at 1009 Highway 172 in West Liberty.
The Morgan County Sheriff's office is operating from a temporary trailer at 195 W. Main Street.
State Offices Relocating within Morgan County
Several Cabinets and agencies have already taken steps to provide needed services in West Liberty.
The Finance Cabinet has been searching for suitable temporary office space for multiple state services in West Liberty. The goal is to keep as many offices within West Liberty as possible, so residents can easily access these agencies without having to travel to another county. The Department of Financial Institutions assisted banks in West Liberty, helping them re-open at remote locations.
In order to assist building inspections and repairs, the Department of Housing, Building and Construction has opened a temporary office of seven inspectors in the parking lot of Oak Hill Coal Corp., located at 1084 Highway 7, No. 4 in West Liberty. Having these inspectors on site will not only help ensure safe entry into damaged buildings, but will also expedite inspections of repairs and issue of permits.
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services opened temporary offices for its Department of Community Based Services in a former elementary school just a few days after the tornado. A temporary trailer is in use for the Morgan County Health Department in the parking lot of the health department at 493 Riverside Drive in West Liberty, and the department is open to the public. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services has worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to expedite delivery of food stamps to affected families and individuals.
The Education and Workforce Development Cabinet is accepting applications for disaster unemployment assistance (DUA). This assistance is designed for those citizens whose place of work has been damaged or destroyed by storms, leaving them unable to return to those jobs. The assistance is also available to those who are self-employed.
Information is available at state-FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers and in local employment offices. DUA representatives are currently stationed at the Morgan County Public Library to assist claimants in that area. If claimants have questions or are unable to contact the local office, please call 502-564-3240 and ask for the DUA representative.
The Commonwealth Office of Technology (COT) has worked with multiple state agencies to provide desktop and laptop computers to state offices in West Liberty whose computer systems were destroyed by the tornado. COT has also restored telephone and data lines to state and local government entities, enabling them to reconnect with critical programming systems to deliver services to citizens.
In accordance with recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) directives, the Department of Revenue will extend tax filing deadlines for taxpayers who live in the federally declared disaster counties. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after Feb. 29, and on or before May 31, have been postponed to May 31, 2012. This includes an extension of the April 17 deadline for filing 2011 individual income tax returns, making income tax payments and making 2011 contributions to individual retirement accounts (IRA).
The Cabinet for Economic Development is in the process of contacting business owners in West Liberty and Salyersville to advise them of available assistance and to encourage them to register with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for possible low-interest loans. Applying with SBA does not require business owners to accept a loan, but may alert them to other available assistance.
The Transportation Cabinet is working to clear rights-of-way of vegetative storm debris.
Gov. Beshear has issued multiple executive orders related to storm recovery. Last week, he signed a new order prohibiting insurance companies from cancelling or changing any insurance policies in affected counties until April 15.
Storm Impact by the Numbers
Kentucky Emergency Management and FEMA have approved millions of dollars in assistance for survivors of this month's tornadoes and severe weather occurring Feb. 29-March 3, 2012.
Nearly 3,600 survivors in designated counties have contacted FEMA for help or information regarding disaster assistance. Many people have sought housing assistance from FEMA because their primary residence has been damaged or destroyed.
Approximately $5.6 million has been approved for housing assistance, including short-term rental assistance and home repair costs.
Approximately 850 households have received FEMA grants to help pay for temporary housing.
More than 2,200 homes sustained damages. Of those, more than 650 were destroyed.
Approximately $911,000 has been approved to cover other essential disaster-related needs, such as medical and dental expenses and lost personal possessions.
More than 1,950 inspections of damaged properties have been conducted.
Nine disaster recovery centers are open.
More than 1,225 visits have been made to disaster recovery centers by affected people.
The 21 counties in the Commonwealth that are currently eligible for Individual Assistance are Bath, Campbell, Carroll, Grant, Grayson, Johnson, Kenton, Larue, Laurel, Lawrence, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Ohio, Pendleton, Rowan, Russell, Trimble and Wolfe. Individual assistance for homeowners and renters can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses not met by insurance or other assistance programs.
On Friday, Gov. Beshear was notified that seven counties were authorized to receive Public Assistance, which provides funds to designated counties to repair, restore, reconstruct or replace public facilities or infrastructure damaged or destroyed by the disaster. The approved counties include Grant, Laurel, Lawrence, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee and Morgan.
FEMA is working with the Kentucky Housing Corporation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to identify housing resources for survivors in the affected counties who lost their homes as a result of the tornadoes.
The SBA is offering low-interest disaster loans to homes and businesses for losses not covered by insurance.