As Kentucky families and communities cope with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the electric cooperatives which serve them are expressing gratitude to the commonwealth’s congressional delegation for its advocacy and support of legislation that has provided relief.
“In particular, I want to highlight the eagerness and diligence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Congressman Andy Barr to connect with our rural communities to ensure that legislation in Washington addresses real needs back home,” says Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives.
Perry says the health and well-being of rural Kentuckians and the electric co-ops that serve them are inextricably linked, and the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to be catastrophic. The sudden and extreme rise in Kentucky’s unemployment rate due to the pandemic lockdown of the state’s economy is not just a statistic to co-ops.
“These numbers represent the struggles of our neighbors, our co-op consumer-members,” Perry says. “As Kentucky and our nation cope with this crisis, it is more important than ever to know that our elected representatives have our back and we have their ear.”
Leader McConnell, Rep. Barr and their respective staffs have stayed in regular contact with Kentucky co-ops, listening to the needs and concerns “on the ground” back home in Kentucky.
“These open lines of communication have helped them not only craft meaningful relief legislation,” Perry says. “but also advocate for co-ops and local consumer-members as all of us worked to determine the most appropriate application of federal relief.”
For instance, Perry credits quick action by the lawmakers to ensure the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration clarified the eligibility of Kentucky’s rural electric cooperatives for specific funding so that co-ops could best understand their options as they weathered substantial financial losses over the last few months.
“Since Congress established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), I have been working tirelessly to advocate for rural electric cooperatives eligibility for these critical forgivable loans,” said Congressman Barr. “Over the last several weeks, I have held calls with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and other high-ranking officials at the Treasury Department to advocate for rural electrical cooperatives. I am pleased that the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration clarified that rural electric cooperatives are now eligible for PPP loans.”
“The PPP is helping to save tens of millions of jobs as a centerpiece of the CARES Act I introduced,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Right here in Kentucky, more than 45,000 small businesses have received federal assistance to keep their lights on and their workers on payroll. I’m glad Kentucky’s electric cooperatives can tap into the PPP in their work to power our communities and maintain affordable prices through this crisis. As Senate Majority Leader, I’m constantly working with the Trump administration and my colleagues to deliver the aid Kentucky needs to beat this virus.”
Perry said that as future recovery efforts take shape, co-ops look forward to continuing to work with elected officials on proposals that ensure electric co-ops have the flexibility and financial relief they need to ensure the delivery of affordable, reliable electricity.
“From increasing federal assistance for utility payments to supporting high-quality broadband in rural America, the Commonwealth’s electric cooperatives stand ready to support bipartisan solutions for the communities we serve,” Perry said.