Hawkins denied FEMA assistance for homes damaged by flooding

Jeff Bobo • Mar 28, 2019 at 8:48 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County has been denied any federal funding to reimburse private homeowners for the cost of repairing damage that occurred during February flooding.

There were two FEMA damage assessments underway in Hawkins County as a result of last month’s massive flooding.

One is the PA (Public Assistance), which pertains to damaged and destroyed public roads, facilities and infrastructure — and that assessment is still underway.

The second is IA (Individual Assessment), which pertains to private homes and structures, and that assessment was recently concluded.

On Wednesday, Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency Director Gary Murrell broke the bad news that FEMA had denied any IA funding for the county to the Public Safety Committee.

“That was a big shocker that we didn’t get included in the IA program with FEMA,” Murrell told the committee. “We turned in everything we did: the assessments on the homes, the amount of damages. They (FEMA) even seen pictures of some of them, and we didn’t get included. I don’t know what the threshold is, and they won’t tell you what the threshold is for IA assistance. We do know the PA assistance threshold is $212,000, and we hit that in the early stages, but I do not know what the threshold is for the IA, and that’s something they will not tell you.”

Earlier this month, Hawkins County homeowners were asked to submit claims related to damage that occurred during month-long flooding that began Feb. 6.

A total of 151 reimbursement claims were received in the county mayor’s office, and damage assessments were compiled by Property Assessor Jeff Thacker’s office.

Thacker told the Times News he was told to assign one of four specific damage assessments to claimants, as opposed to submitting a specific dollar figure.

Of the 151 requests made, one was assessed as “destroyed,” seven were assessed with “minor” damage, and the rest were assessed as “affected” by flooding.

Although there was no total dollar figure available on the IA claims, Murrell said the owner of the destroyed residence had received a damage estimate of more than $60,000.

Murrell noted that only five counties in Tennessee were approved by FEMA for IA funding, the closest of which was Sevier.

“There’s probably going to be some unhappy people in the county who aren’t going to get any help for what they’ve done (to make repairs) due to the flooding,” Murrell said.

Murrell noted that the county’s current PA damage assessment currently sits at $770,000 and continues to grow.

That’s well above FEMA’s $212,000 threshold for PA assistance.

That $770,000 includes county road damage, debris removal, utility repairs by Holston Electric Cooperative and Lakeview Utility District, extra manpower for the sheriff’s office, and Hawkins County Rescue Squad “in kind” services.

The complete PA request is due to be submitted for FEMA’s consideration in about a month.