FRANKFORT, Ky. — With a new executive order Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Kentucky will prohibit landlords from charging late fees, interest or other penalties on renters who can't pay due to the COVID-19 pandemic from March 6 through Dec. 31, 2020.
Additionally, the order creates more steps before eviction processes can begin, and it requires landlords to meet with nonpaying tenants to work out plans to keep them housed. Beshear had suspended evictions as the pandemic took hold.
"We believe that it is a framework that is going to be workable and is going to help a lot of Kentuckians," Beshear said at his daily briefing.
To do this, the state will dedicate $15 million in CARES Act funding to create a Healthy At Home Eviction Relief Fund to help those in need pay rent and remain in their homes.
Kentuckians will be able to apply for the fund beginning Sept. 8. Details on how to apply are coming soon, Beshear said.
The Team Kentucky Fund, Kentucky Housing Corporation Emergency Solutions Grant and other local funds will also be available to help, he added.
Beshear said the program aims to address three concerns: "Wanting to make sure that people can stay in their home; that they’re not gaming the system at the expense of a landlord that is also a commercial enterprise — a business — feeding a family that deserves to be treated fairly; and, finally, wanting to make sure we don’t have a lot of Kentuckians emerging from this crisis with a ton of debt they cannot climb out of."
Fall sports can go ahead at Kentucky high schools
Beshear reluctantly said he would not overturn the Kentucky High School Athletic Association board of control's decision to approve athletics contests for sports including football, soccer, volleyball, and cross country starting the week of Sept. 7.
"It is not because I think it is a good decision or a wise decision, but if we’re gonna defeat this virus, we need people other than me or up here all over Kentucky taking responsibility to make good and wise decisions," he said Monday.
Parents from Northern Kentucky and across the commonwealth are gathered outside the capitol Monday afternoon Beshear gave his daily update on COVID-19, calling on the governor to allow sports to resume this school year.
Beshear expressed doubt about starting sports this early, including the possibility that cancellations of sports that start too early would trigger cancellations of later sports seasons.
“We risk a shortened season. We risk what I think can be successful plans to get our kids back in school. We risk every other sport that’s going to follow. But we can’t be making every decision for what’s best for folks out of the governor’s office, and it’s going to be incumbent on our supers, our coaches, on our different groups to make the wisest decisions that they can," Beshear said.
Kentucky COVID-19 numbers
On Monday, Beshear announced 373 new cases four new virus-related deaths in Kentucky, for a total of 43,899 statewide cases and 885 deaths.
Kentucky's virus positivity rate fell to 4.77% by Monday, and Beshear said the state's positivity rate has hovered around 5.8% since Aug. 9. Though exponential case growth of case numbers has stopped, something Beshear credits to a July mask mandate, total cases have not stopped rising.
"We were headed the way of Florida and Texas and Alabama and others. You could see our curve just as easily as everybody else's, and we blunted it," Beshear said.
The state has administered more than 794,282 coronavirus tests so far. Kentucky's travel advisory, which at one point advised Kentuckians not to travel to more than a dozen states, has been reduced to five: Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas.
NKY Health reports that 3,589 people across Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties have tested positive for COVID-19, and 85 people have reportedly died of the virus. The health department reports 729 active cases and 2,775 people who have recovered from coronavirus as of Monday.
NKY counties in COVID-19 'yellow zone'
Several Northern Kentucky counties, including Boone, Campbell, Kenton, Grant and Carroll counties, have positivity rates between 5% and 10%, according to the latest White House report. That puts them in the White House's "yellow" zone, a step below the "red" zone denoting a 10% or greater positivity rate. Twenty counties of Kentucky's 120 counties are currently in the red zone, according to the weekly report.
White House data shows most Northern Kentucky counties are in the "yellow zone" with coronavirus positivity rates between 5% and 10%.
Beshear said this rating system may determine future actions in different counties, possibly including another recommended delay for in-person schooling in red counties.
Twenty of Kentucky's 120 counties are in the "red zone" with coronavirus positivity rates of 10% or greater, according to White House data.
More money coming for unemployed
Beshear announced Friday that with new federal aid, eligible unemployed Kentuckians will $400 per week in additional assistance through FEMA’s Lost Wages Assistance program.
Beshear said Kentuckians receiving unemployment benefits could expect the additional help, which would be $300 per week for three weeks from the federal government plus $100 from the state, starting in early September. Now that the application is approved, it will take another two weeks to reconfigure Kentucky’s computer payment system to get the money to people in need.
“We fully intend to provide additional unemployment further (than three weeks), it’s going to depend on the amount of money the federal government has," Beshear said at his daily press briefing.
The $400 will apply to traditional UI, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and the extended benefits programs, he said.
“We believe this will make us the first state to apply that plans to fund the full $400 promised in the President’s memorandum," Beshear said.
COVID-19 and schools
Because Kentucky cases are not declining, Beshear's administration recommended delaying the start of in-person classes in Kentucky until Sept. 28. The decision to open K-12 classrooms or keep students at home still rests with local school districts. Some in Northern Kentucky have altered their plans and moved instruction online during the first six weeks of school while others decided to start in-person classes last week.
Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said schools will notify the local health department before notifying the community of new coronavirus cases. The Kentucky Department of Public Health will use the information to publish a school case report, which will be announced at the governor's daily press briefings. In a similar way, the state will report virus positivity rates at Kentucky colleges and universities.
The plan is based on the same pre-existing statute that districts follow for lice, strep throat and other outbreaks in schools.
Find free testing in NKY
In Northern Kentucky, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Covington's Gravity Diagnostics now offers free, appointment-only drive-thru testing at 25 Atlantic Ave in Erlanger. The site, the former Toyota HQ building off Mineola Pike, will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You will be able to collect your own sample without leaving your vehicle and receive results within three to five days.
Additionally, appointment-only drive-up testing will be available through St. E at 7200 Alexandria Pike, Alexandria. The free testing site will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Schedule an appointment at those sites online at www.stelizabeth.com/covid-testing.
To find all coronavirus testing locations near you, click here.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: