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Ending COVID emergency early could 'take food directly off the tables' of Kentuckians, Beshear says

Gov. Beshear vetoed legislation that would end the coronavirus state of emergency Wednesday.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A Republican-backed measure calling for an early end to Kentucky's COVID-19 state of emergency was vetoed Wednesday by Gov. Andy Beshear, who said it would cut off extra food aid to struggling Kentuckians.

The state’s GOP-dominated legislature finished work on the measure last week, with supporters saying it signaled that life is getting back to normal after the long fight against the pandemic.

But the Democratic governor said the legislature's action would “take food directly off the tables" of about a half-million Kentuckians. The measure would cut their monthly average food stamp benefits by about $100 during a time of rising food prices, Beshear said. The federal government can only provide the extra benefits to states with an emergency declaration related to COVID-19, he said.

RELATED: 'We still have some struggles, things continue to move in the right direction': Beshear says COVID cases continue to fall

Beshear wielded his executive powers during the state of emergency to impose pandemic-related restrictions, but the legislature last year reined in those emergency powers to fight the virus.

“I believe that given we have zero statewide (COVID) restrictions — and we haven’t for six months — all this resolution does is hurt these folks by cutting off this extra food aid while doing absolutely nothing else,” Beshear said in a veto message posted on social media.

Beshear urged the GOP-dominated legislature not to override his veto.

State Senate President Robert Stivers has said the measure states that lawmakers have no intent to “impair or delay” the state’s ability to receive pandemic-related federal funds. Stivers suggested another potential remedy for the extended food benefits is through the emergency regulation process.

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