Dean Flener, who is TEMA's Executive Officer for External Relations, told the Times News that Hawkins County simply didn't have enough destruction to private residences to be included in Tennessee’s federal IA assistance request.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency hasn't awarded any emergency funding as of yet related to February flooding, Flener noted.
Earlier this month, however, Gov. Bill Lee requested federal IA assistance for five counties including Decatur, Hardin, Humphreys, Perry, and Sevier.
Hawkins County had sought to be included on that list, but was left out because FEMA requires a county to have 25 destroyed homes to qualify IA funding.
Hawkins County had one destroyed home, which had alone had a damage estimate of $60,000.
Aside from that one home, which was officially listed as “major damage”, Hawkins County had another 21 homes considered “minimally affected”, and another 129 homes listed as “affected” in some way.
"I know that's not good news for the 151 who had some kind of impact to their homes — and they're going to have to spend money now to make repairs, that they may, or probably don't have," Flener said.
Flener added, "You've got 151 homes that were affected by the flood, but that's not going to be in FEMA's criteria for considering Individual Assistance. They look at, were there 25 completely destroyed homes in this county, and there was only one, per the initial damage assessment."
Flener suggested that affected homeowners call the TEMA Crisis Cleanup Hotline at (833) 556-2476, which helps residential homeowner get connected with volunteer resources to help clean up or repair storm damaged homes.
In considering a disaster declaration, FEMA has two paths that it reviews.
Aside from IA, which deals with private residences, the other path to federal assistance to county government is Public Assistance, or PA, for roads, bridges, emergency work, infrastructure, and other public facilities.
Hawkins County was among 58 Tennessee counties named in Gov. Lee's request for PA. Other nearby counties included in that request for PA were Carter, Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Johnson, Knox, and Unicoi.
“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,” 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.”
As of last week, Hawkins County's PA damage assessment was at $770,000, 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.