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Local effort to lead way on flood relief, rebuilding

August 22nd, 2012 9:19 pm by Becky Campbell

Local effort to lead way on flood relief, rebuilding

Local and regional funding paired with several faith-based volunteer organizations will help residents of the Dry Creek community and other locations affected by an Aug. 5 flood get back on their feet, and there’s a plan in place to make it all happen.
The process starts with residents applying for assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration for assistance, and with an Aug. 30 deadline there is some urgency to get residents registered. No applications will be accepted after that date.
Despite an estimated $25 million in damage in Washington County alone from the flood, caused by 4 to 6 inches of rain in an hour, Tennessee did not qualify for federal disaster assistance, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said Wednesday.
“FEMA will not be assisting in this, even though we had 54 homes completely destroyed, more than 100 with some extent of damage, we did not meet their threshold that they require,” he said.
The residential uninsured total in the three affected counties by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s account was around $3 million, officials said. FEMA’s threshold for assistance is $8.5 million in damage.
But all hope of help for residents isn’t over, Eldridge said.
“This will be a 100 percent local effort,” Eldridge said while detailing several avenues of funding for residents and businesses to rebuild.
“The majority of the funding that will be coming into this recovery project is going to be in the form of grants that will not be repaid. There are some low-interest-loan programs specifically designed for disaster recovery,” Eldridge said.
“Everything we’re doing related to the grants and loans is going to be needs-based. So those who have no other means, we will be able to offer them grants to help restore their homes.”
Resources available to residents and businesses include low-interest loans through the SBA and grants to help pay for new homes or rehabilitate existing homes with damage.
The process is not just for Washington County residents, Eldridge said. Any resident or business in Unicoi and Carter counties affected by the flood are also urged to apply to the SBA at the Washington County Courthouse on Main Street in Jonesborugh.
One available source for recovery funds, the Disaster Recovery Program through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, is new and Washington County will be the first locality in Tennessee to receive assistance.
The fund, just established in May, can provide up to $20,000 per household for residents to make a down payment or pay closing costs on a new home or as funds to repair an existing home.
“This phase of the process that we’re entering now will be several months. For that reason we have created a very deliberate plan, a process to manage through the recovery phase,” Eldridge said.
He detailed a three-step process for the recovery program. First, a damage assessment process will ensure all residents affected by the flood get registered through the SBA and those people will be matched with volunteer resources to proceed with repairs.
From there, the applicant’s information will be forwarded to the Eastern Eight Community Development Corp. to be matched with funding resources.
That information will be passed to the volunteer organization for the resident along with material suppliers and subcontractors. Eastern Eight also will be responsible for disbursing funds.
The third aspect of the recovery program is volunteer resources. Those organizations will oversee projects, coordinate with property owners on the scope and schedule of the work and schedule materials and volunteers for the project.
But the absolute first step for any affected resident is to get registered with the SBA, Eldridge said. And he stressed the importance of applying before the Aug. 30 deadline.
“To me, it’s just as important for them to find out if they qualify or don’t qualify for assistance. We want them to know as soon as possible if they don’t qualify so they can make other arrangements,” Eldridge said. “The reason they would not qualify is simply means-based.”
Eldridge said if residents have the income or other resources to “deal with their damage on their own then they aren’t going to qualify for the assistance.”
Besides the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati fund, four other funding resources are available to residents. Information on all the resources available can be accessed on the county’s website at www.washingtoncountytn.org.
Eldridge said he wasn’t surprised FEMA didn’t approve a disaster declaration. The area was approved in 2011 for aid through FEMA after several tornadoes ripped through Washington and Greene counties.
Two things set the two events apart, he said.
“One was the number of homes damaged. This storm event was primarily limited to Washington County and a relatively small number of homes affected.
“In the tornado, that was widespread. From FEMA’s perspective that resulted from one event and it added up to many millions of dollars,” he said.
The current disaster was different in that “no one in this flood had insurance.”
“We have so many families that don’t have the means to rebuild their homes, they don’t have insurance and without FEMA assistance the responsibility for this really falls to the local community,” Eldridge said.
“I am so pleased that we’ve had the outpouring of support, help and resources and that we’re able to put together a recovery program now that’s going to meet the needs of these families that otherwise don’t have the means to help themselves.”

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