President Joe Biden and the first lady are expected to join Gov. Andy Beshear and his wife, Brittania, as they meet with families and view damage from storms that have produced the worst flooding in Kentucky’s history.
At least 37 people died in last month’s deluge, which dropped 8 to 10 1/2 inches of rain in just 48 hours. The National Weather Service said Sunday that flooding remained a threat, warning of more storms through Thursday.
Monday’s visit will be Biden’s second visit to the state. He had previously visited in December after tornadoes hit Kentucky, killing 77 people and leaving a trail of destruction.
“I wish I could tell you why we keep getting beat up here in Kentucky,” Beshear said recently. “I wish I could tell you why areas where people may not have much keep getting hit and losing everything. I can’t tell you why, but I know what we do in response to it. And the answer is that we can. These are our people. Let’s make sure we help them.”
Biden has expanded federal disaster aid in Kentucky, ensuring the federal government will cover the full cost of debris removal and other emergency measures.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided more than $3.1 million in relief funds and hundreds of rescue personnel have been deployed to help.
The flooding came just a month after Beshear visited Mayfield to celebrate the completion of the first homes to be fully built since a tornado nearly wiped out the town. Three families were handed the keys to their new homes that day and the governor in his remarks heard about the visit he had made soon after.
“I made a promise that day that while we were beaten, we weren’t knocked out,” Beshear said. “That we would get back up and move forward. And six months to the day, we’re not just standing, we’re not just standing on our feet, we’re moving forward.”
Now more disasters are testing the state. Beshear has been to eastern Kentucky as often as the weather has allowed since the flooding began. He held daily hour-long press conferences to provide details, including a full line of help for victims. As after the tornadoes, Beshear opened relief funds that went directly to the people in the besieged areas.
A Democrat, Beshear narrowly defeated a Republican incumbent in 2019 and is seeking a second term in 2023.
Polling consistently shows him with strong approval ratings among Kentuckians. But several prominent Republicans have entered the governor’s race, alternately bashing the governor for his aggressive response to the pandemic and trying to link him to Biden and rising inflation.
Beshear often comments about rising inflation weighing on Kentuckians’ budgets. He avoids blaming Biden, instead pointing to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and supply chain bottlenecks as contributing factors to rising consumer costs.
Schreiner reported from Frankfort, Kentucky.