This past December, Kentucky endured a series of tornadoes that proved to be the deadliest storms in the Commonwealth’s history.
I was at home in Bowling Green at the time, as 155+ mph winds whipped through the city and leveled full blocks.
The next day I surveyed the destruction, overwhelmed by the scale and concerned for our city’s path to recovery.
The debris is now mostly clear, but lives are still damaged. Only through community efforts can we fully recover, and Kentuckians have shown their firm resolve. Over the past two months, I have witnessed some of the most heartening acts of compassion, grace, and resilience across our Commonwealth.
The unbridled spirit of our state is on full display.
During my recent visits to Mayfield, Princeton, Dawson Springs, Hartford, Bremen, Eddyville, and Pembroke among others, I have spoken with hundreds of community members and leaders, in awe of their acts of service.
Kentuckians, even from areas not directly affected, answered the call to rebuild homes and fix downed power lines.
For example, the brave employees of Warren Rural Electric and Bowling Green Municipal Electric repaired the damaged electrical grid for countless homes in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
I was honored to thank them personally and include a statement of their efforts in the Congressional Record.
The initial outpouring of support was amazing, but I know the road to recovery will be long.
My staff has been available at every turn. From my days as a physician, I understand the complexity of bureaucratic paperwork.
In affected counties, we continue to assist with filing FEMA claims, applying for Small Business Administration loans, and replacing lost or damaged documents such as Social Security cards, VA records, military medals and records, and tax paperwork.
Besides working with Kentuckians on the ground to help mitigate the damage, in Washington, I have disseminated relief information and coordinated a FEMA request between President Biden and the entire Kentucky delegation to help with the cleanup.
Most recently, I have been working to expand access to disaster assistance in rural communities through my work as Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business Committee.
From my campaign account, I donated $100,000 to local charities to help those in need. All together, private charities donated over $40 million to help Kentucky tornado victims.
In meetings across Kentucky, I heard your concerns that some Kentuckians were not able to access needed SBA loans because they lived in a rural county.
For instance, even though some properties were damaged in Spencer County, the area did not meet arbitrary population standards to be eligible for SBA disaster assistance.
To fix this problem, I worked to strengthen legislation that would allow governors to request SBA disaster assistance for homeowners and small businesses in rural areas that incurred significant damage to one or more properties.
This legislation would allow a governor to request SBA assistance in rural areas with a lower damage threshold after a major disaster has been declared by the president.
During my time in the Senate, farmers, small businesses, and I have fought side-by-side to cut the bureaucratic red tape that impedes economic growth. This bill is no exception.
This is just one step on our full road to recovery, but through concerted efforts on my behalf and yours, I am confident in Kentucky, now more than ever.
You can read the op-ed HERE.