Gov. Bill Lee requests Major Disaster Declaration for Federal Disaster Relief in 58 Counties

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee recently sent a formal request to President Donald Trump for a Major Disaster Declaration to make federal recovery assistance available to city and county jurisdictions, which includes Lewis County, impacted in February’s significant flooding and severe storms.

“The severe flooding has left many Tennessee jurisdictions unsure about how to fund the unexpected need to repair infrastructure and pay for their emergency measures,” and Gov. Lee said.  “I believe we have demonstrated the need for federal assistance is necessary and if granted, will lessen some of the financial burden on local resources for flood response and recovery.”

Since the heavy rain, major flooding, and severe storms began on Feb. 6, 83 of Tennessee’s 95 counties have reported some level of flood damage and severe weather impact.

Gov. Lee’s request specifically asks the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make the Public Assistance (PA) program available to 58 Tennessee counties impacted by the flooding and severe storms from February 6, 2019, onward.

Other counties included in the request are Anderson, Bedford, Bledsoe, Blount, Campbell, Carter, Cheatham, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Coffee, Decatur, Dekalb, Dickson, Dyer, Fentress, Gibson, Giles, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Hawkins, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Lake, Lauderdale, Lincoln, Marion, Marshall, McNairy, Moore, Morgan, Obion, Overton, Perry, Rhea, Roane, Robertson, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier, Smith, Tipton, Unicoi, Union, Van Buren, Warren, Wayne, and Weakley.

On March 8, 2019, Director Patrick Sheehan of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) requested FEMA send federal teams to Tennessee to begin joint Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) to quantify the magnitude of the flooding damage at the county level.

Based on the FEMA joint PDAs, the requested counties demonstrated they had met or sdurpassed federally-established loss thresholds to qualify for relief through FEMA’s PA program.

The qualifying losses for county, municipal, state agency, and utility infrastructure impacts and emergency expenditures totaled $68.3 million due to the flooding and severe storms.

“We expect to add more counties to both FEMA’s preliminary damage assessments and to the Major Disaster Declaration request,” Sheehan said.  “As flood waters recede in other impacted counties, we are confident with additional time, more damages will surface which will meet and exceed the federal per capita loss requirements.”

FEMA’s PA program reimburses local and state governments, utilities, and certain private, non-profit organizations for emergency protective measures and debris removal, and for repairs to roads and bridges, water control facilities, buildings, and equipment as the result of a federally-declared disaster.

Gov. Lee’s declaration request also asks FEMA to make available the federal Individual Assistance (IA) program in the counties of Decatur, Hardin, and Perry, which, if awarded, would provide direct help to Tennessee residents in the requested counties who demonstrate eligibility for the IA program.

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