When the $2.4 billion in American Recovery Plan Act money starts flowing into the state’s coffers, Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball will be there to provide her self-proclaimed watchdog oversight to ensure the COVID pandemic relief funds are spent correctly and legally.
That’s just one of the ways the Republican says her office has played a vital role during the public health crisis over the past year. She says her staff also oversaw disbursements during the first round of federal aid under the CARES Act as well as purchases of personal protective equipment.
“There was a lot of fraudulent companies that were trying to get money for those items,” says Ball. “We had to put in greater security measures in the treasury to make sure are these legitimate companies – are we actually getting what we’re paying for?”
The treasurer’s office also issues payments to the thousands of Kentuckians receiving jobless benefits. Ball says that includes helping the state’s Unemployment Insurance Office combat the massive wave of fraudulent claims that have swamped the system in recent months.
“We’ve been working with UI to put greater measures in place, stricter oversight, and trying to assist them in making sure these things get caught,” the treasurer says.
Last October, Ball testified before a legislative committee that Gov. Andy Beshear illegally spent taxpayer dollars when he sent Kentucky State Police (KSP) officers to monitor churches that were violating his emergency orders not to meet in person during the early months of the pandemic. Ball says since religious freedom is constitutionally protected, Beshear should not have used state funds to track those attending church services.
But Ball stopped short of assigning a dollar value to those incidents. She says it would’ve been a massive undertaking to calculate that when the more important point was that the actions were unconstitutional and that the legislature and the governor needed to address the situation.
“Under normal circumstances I would just stop a payment,” says Ball. “But it really wasn’t appropriate in this instance because I don’t want to strip money away from KSP or health departments when they’re just following orders.”
Helping Kentuckians with Their Personal Finances
As the mother of one child and another one on the way, Ball says she’s concerned about the impacts COVID has had on women in the workforce. Government data indicates 3 million women left their jobs in the past year, either through layoffs or to care for children staying home because of school and daycare closures.
Ball says that the puts the number of women in the workforce at levels not seen in three decades.
“I am very hopeful and very encouraged we going to see that coming back,” she says. “I think we need to be encouraging women and empowering women... and creating opportunities for women as they come back.”
During her time in office, the treasurer has focused on boosting personal financial knowledge among Kentuckians. She spearheaded an effort to require high school students to complete a financial literacy course before graduation. She also helped create a savings plan for Kentuckians with disabilities. STABLE accounts allow people with special needs to save up to $15,000 without jeopardizing their government benefits.
“You really can start to have a nest egg,” says Ball. “It’s just a game-changer for folks in this community.”
On June 4, Ball is hosting a virtual, day-long financial literacy workshop for women of all ages. Smart Women, Smart Money will feature experts discussing money maters ranging from saving for retirement to buying a house to saving for a child’s education. The conference is free and registration opens on April 23.
Now in her second and final term as treasurer, Ball says she is contemplating and praying about her political future, whether that’s a run for another statewide office or perhaps a seat in Washington.
“I love serving the commonwealth of Kentucky. I think I’ve done well in the treasurer’s office,” Ball says. “As things open up and as God directs, we’ll see.”
Community Action Council Celebrates Kentucky Women
Kentucky women leave their marks on the commonwealth in many important and unique ways. Now the Community Action Council in Lexington wants to honor those who are making powerful impacts on their communities with a new award called Unapologetically Woman.
“It is a woman who walks in her own truth and makes no apologies for it,” says CAC Executive Director Sharon Price.
The organization has received nominations for women from about 15 counties according to Price, ranging from politicians and journalists to fashion designers and midwives.
“There are so many women doing so many amazing things,” says Price. “You’re going to see true diversity in these women.”
Winners will be recognized in a media and social media campaign, and recognized at a gala event later this year called the Sneaker Ball.
“Women have to wear these shoes that are not so comfortable all the time,” says Price. “But now it’s time to dress up, look great, and be comfortable at the same time, and rock it out and celebrate each other.”
Price says the date and location of the ball haven’t been set yet, but she hopes pandemic protocols will allow for an in-person gathering by that time.