BREAKING NEWS: State senators, reps west of I-65 planning demonstrations to urge Beshear to reopen economy, save rural areas from financial collapse


A group of Kentucky state senators and representatives who represent districts west of Interstate-65 are planning to hold rallies around the western part of the state designed to encourage Gov. Andy Beshear to reopen Kentucky’s economy.

The demonstrations were originally scheduled to take place Tuesday, May 5, in the county seats of Grayson (Leitchfield), Hopkins (Madisonville), McCracken (Paducah), and Warren (Bowling Green) counties, along with other possible locations.

The demonstrations, though, due to logistical and weather concerns, have been postponed to a date yet to be determined.

Although Beshear has scheduled a gradual reopening of the state’s economy beginning on May 11, the senators and representatives are seeking to reopen businesses in their districts immediately.

“Those of us west of I-65 feel we’ve been long neglected by state government,” Sen. Steve Meredith told Monday night. “All the focus is on the urban areas and eastern Kentucky, Appalachia, and their problems and I certainly understand that and support that. But there’s a whole rest of the state that’s out here and we don’t really get a lot of attention.”

Emphasizing that he is not minimizing how dangerous and deadly coronavirus is, Meredith said rural Kentucky faces a unique set of problems, particularly economic issues.

“This one size shutdown that fits all just doesn’t work because we are predominantly rural,” Meredith stated, “and we don’t have those urban areas; certainly, we have Bowling Green, Owensboro and Paducah, but they’re not nearly the size of Louisville, Lexington and northern Kentucky. And it presents some particular challenges, as most of rural Kentucky has not recovered from the 2007 (to) 2009 recession yet, and we’re being hit with this on top of it.”

Meredith said of great concern is the fact that much of western and southern Kentucky share a border with Tennessee and Indiana, both states that have reopened their economies. This, Meredith contends, is pulling consumers out of Kentucky to make purchases and conduct business in those communities instead of in the commonwealth.

“You look at our border, we’re kind of a triangle ourselves, going from Brandenburg down to Tompkinsville all the way to Paducah. That’s a long border to share with Tennessee, which is open, and we also share a border with Indiana, which is open. So, we’re being strangled economically by not allowing our businesses to open.”

Meredith, having served as CEO of Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center for many years, and with a son in the medical profession (Dr. Bryce Meredith), is not softening the seriousness of the virus with this attempt to influence Beshear.

“Now, I certainly supported the initial shutdown but I think we’ve done a good job of educating people on how severe this situation is, but now we need to allow people to act like adults and make decisions for themselves, “he said. “Karen (his wife) and I, being over 65 years of age, we’re both trying to isolate ourselves as much as possible, as our population is. I still want to encourage people, don’t discount this disease. It’s terrible, it really is. We know it’s serious and we commend everybody that’s great job, first responders and others … fantastic job. So, we’re not trying to discount that, but what we are saying is that people are smarter than what our state government gives them credit for.”

Meredith noted that COVID-19 has struck the state’s older population particularly hard, and because of that, young families have been placed in precarious financial situations.

“Supposedly, 80 percent of the deaths have been from people over the age of 65,” Meredith stated (as of Monday afternoon, 195 of 261 COVID-19 deaths have been people over the age of 70, or 74.7 percent). “(That) gives you an entirely different scenario if you’re a young family that’s trying to put food on the table and you’re trying to make a house payment and you’re trying to make your car payment, and unemployment is not going to carry you that far. It’s going to create some lasting problems that we’re going to have to address. So, we’re trying to influence the governor to try and open up our state as quick as possible.

“You look at the nursing home situation,” he continued. “Those folks did a great job of shutting down those facilities early on. But they’re still being affected, but that’s the nature of a virus, you cannot completely isolate yourself from it. And you try to control it as much as possible, to the point that you’re destroying your economy, which creates a whole new set of problems for families.”

The GOP senator feels it’s now time to begin trusting Kentucky citizens to do the right thing, as it pertains to adhering to social distancing, and living life smartly in this most difficult and unparalleled times.

“Again, I think we’ve done a great job of educating the public, it’s what we needed to do, but we need to start treating people like adults and make decisions on their own (on) what’s best for them, instead of a government mandate,” Meredith stressed. “We have penalized our rural communities with this one size fits all economic shutdown. Those who are vulnerable, I think will take the necessary precautions, but again, it should be not left to the government to decide for a young family that he should stay isolated when they’re having a difficult time making a house payment and car payment.”

GOP state Rep. Samara Heavrin, who had a conflict and would not have attended Tuesday’s planned rally, issued the following statement to on the demonstrations:

“I believe that we are all concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on our economy. With more than a quarter of our workforce on unemployment and many of our businesses struggling to make payroll, we are already seeing that the steps taken to slow the spread have also paralyzed the economy. Now we must turn our attention to building it back. The House and Senate Majorities have a proven track record. Until COVID-19, we had record low unemployment, historic economic investment, and record-shattering revenue. We can get there again, but it will take time.”

By Ken Howlett, News Director

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