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Beshear closes bars for two weeks and lowers indoor restaurant capacity

Courtesy of Kentucky Chamber Bottom Line

Bars will be forced to shut back down and indoor seating capacity for restaurants will be reduced to 25 percent of normal capacity, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday. The latest executive orders take effect Tuesday and will be enforced through August 11, before they are re-evaluated.

The announcement comes after White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Debroah Birx visited Kentucky Sunday and met with Beshear and members of his administration to discuss next steps for the Commonwealth to prevent further spread.

Beshear has been hinting at these two new restrictions over the last week, stating they are recommendations from the White House for states that reach a certain threshold of positive testing.

The governor said he knows these restrictions will hurt Kentucky’s restaurants, but according to the White House modeling, he believes it is an important step to stop the spread. Beshear also stated they will work with cities and localities to expand outside seating as much as possible.

Beshear also announced an additional recommendation for public and private schools to postpone in-person instruction until the third week in August. He said the administration believes this would give the state an opportunity to ensure everyone is following the facial covering mandate and hopefully get the number of positive cases under control.

Unemployment insurance was also discussed at the press conference Monday. The Beshear administration has decided to renew its contract with private firm Ernst and Young to help with the processing of unemployment insurance claims for another five weeks. The contract, which was initially signed for four weeks for a total of $7.4 million, supplies Kentuckians with an additional 300 individuals working on unemployment insurance claims.

Amy Cubbage with the Kentucky Labor Cabinet noted the contract is paid for by CARES funding and noted the firm has helped the state process 61,000 claims in the first four weeks of the contract and they wanted to extend as the state still faces around 68,000 unprocessed claims beginning in March.

This update comes as state officials explained Kentucky’s unemployment insurance fund has a balance of $0 and state businesses will likely see a big financial hit because of the drain on the system.

As for federal unemployment benefits, Cubbage clarified that the additional $600 in federal unemployment benefits Kentuckians have been seeing ran out last week and will no longer be available to those filing or claiming those benefits at the state level.

Beshear also updated Kentuckians on the status of the state’s budget, stating final numbers for the previous fiscal year showed the state ended up with a $177.5 million in the General Fund. Because of this surplus, $162.5 million will go in “rainy day” fund which will bring the total of the fund to $465.7 million. Beshear noted that this is very positive because “we are going to need it.”

He also stated the final deficit for the state’s Road Fund was $60.3 million, which he said means no cuts to state construction program will be necessary due to spending reductions and CARES Act funds.

The governor continued to stress the need for Kentucky to see federal help in terms of the state budget in order to avoid huge issues.

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