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Frankfort Local News

House Committee Quickly Passes Bill Designed to Help Kentucky Tornado Victims

A bill granting sales tax refunds for Kentuckians hit by this month’s tornadoes is swiftly moving through the General Assembly.

The measure cleared the House Appropriations and Revenue committee less than 12 hours after it was first proposed. The language granting the refunds had to be inserted into another bill, House Bill 165, because the deadline to introduce new House bills passed weeks ago.

“It is very important and I appreciate it and I know all of the committee members appreciate you working quickly and working on this, to get this issue before us before this session ends,” said committee chairman Rick Rand of the work Representative John Will Stacy and others did on the measure.

The refunds will be granted for any sales tax storm victims pay on building materials. Those who want a refund must submit receipts and proof that the materials were used for rebuilding structures damaged by tornadoes.

“You know this is a rare opportunity that we all have under extraordinary bad circumstances to do something jointly for people who all over the state are in need,” says Stacy.

Lawmakers have eight legislative days to pass the measure out of both chambers, creating a bit of urgency to do something to for victims. The full House is expected to vote on the bill before the end of the week.

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Frankfort Local News

Lawmakers Propose Partial Sales Tax Refunds for Residents of Tornado-Stricken Areas

Kentucky lawmakers are planning to help home and business owners in tornado-stricken areas.

Earlier this month, tornadoes ripped through Northern and Eastern Kentucky, causing millions of dollars in damage. But lawmakers are working on legislation to give storm victims refunds on sales tax for building materials.

The plan addresses a concern that people won’t rebuild destroyed towns.

“If you were, got an insurance check or a FEMA check, you may look around and there be such devastation in your community that you might decide you want to locate somewhere else,” says Representative John Will Stacy, who lives in the hard-hit town West Liberty. “But we don’t want to leave our communities like that, we want to fix these areas and we don’t want to leave a blighted area,” Stacy says.

The proposal has the support of leadership of both parties in both legislative chambers.

At a news conference announcing the proposal, lawmakers said they are looking at other ways to help the area, but the current proposal is the only solid effort so far.

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Local News

FEMA Begins Taking Tornado Damage Claims In Ky. Disaster Areas

From Dan Conti, Kentucky Public Radio

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are in northern and eastern Kentucky, conducting damage assessments and helping tornado victims through the process of applying for federal assistance.

President Obama has issued a disaster declaration for seven counties, and more areas could be added as assessments continue.

“There’s no question about it, the damage is heartbreaking. It’s something that you never get used to. I often get the question, ‘Is this the worst you’ve ever seen?’ My opinion really doesn’t count too much, but the opinion that does count is the people who have been affected. It may be the worst they’ve ever seen,” said FEMA spokesman Jim Homstad, who’s on the ground in eastern Kentucky.

Officials say a 23rd Kentucky storm fatality has been confirmed. The body of an elderly Somerset woman was found this week in a closet at her home.

(Photo of tornado damage in East Bernstadt, Kentucky courtesy of Kentucky National Guard)

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Local News

In Tornadoes’ Aftermath, Relief and Cleanup Underway

People across Kentucky and southern Indiana have begun the process of cleanup and repair from Friday’s massive tornado outbreak that killed more than 30 people in the two states, injured scores of others and left widespread destruction.

The Red Cross’s Vicki Eichstaedt has been helping coordinate relief efforts in the devastated community of Henryville, Indiana.

“We’re seeing people getting roofing materials and tarps on their roofs, we’re seeing people meet up with one another in the streets, and just supporting each other and taking care of each other and really people helping people, which is just so important,”she said.

The governors of Indiana and Kentucky both toured the damaged areas in their respective states Saturday morning. Kentucky’s Steve Beshear dispatched more than 200 National Guard troops to some of the hardest hit areas, most of them in eastern Kentucky.

Beshear also declared a state of emergency across the commonwealth to make state resources quickly available to local officials.

Eichstaedt says the best way to help tornado victims everywhere is with a cash donation to the Red Cross.

Contributions can be made by texting ‘Red Cross’ to 90999, by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or visiting the Red Cross website.

(Photo of Henryville, Indiana tornado damage by C.E. Branham, News and Tribune)