More than a month out from the early August flood that destroyed more than 50 Washington County homes and lefts scores of others damaged, the disaster recovery fund established by the United Way of Washington County to help the food victims rebuild has received less than $1,000 in contributions.
Mayor Dan Eldridge said Friday the United Way fund will become critical to the rebuilding effort within the next two weeks when volunteers from Appalachia Service Project and the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church begin construction of a new house to replace a home that was destroyed. “The focus up to this point has been cleanup, tearing out and demolition,” Eldridge said. “Several mobile homes ... have been demolished. Carpet and flooring have been torn out. Walls have been torn out up to four feet. And there’s been a lot of mud cleaned out.”
According to the mayor, 160 flood victims, including homeowners and businesses, have so far registered for assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration, which will continue to take applications by phone and online through the middle of October. And the applications are being assessed by the Eastern Eight Community Development Corp. to determine individual flood victims’ eligibility for a total of five grant and low-interest loan programs available.
Eastern Eight will then match the flood victims who need help replacing or repairing a home with one or more of several nonprofit groups that have volunteered to provide construction management and labor and disburse money donated to the United Way’s disaster recovery to help purchase of construction materials to flood victims with the “greatest need and least means.”
“Unfortunately that’s all of them,” Eldridge said. “I have been involved in two disaster recoveries as mayor and in both cases the people impacted the most are people who have very little.”
Financial assistance available to the flood victims includes grants of up to $20,000 from the Disaster Recovery Program operated by the Federal Home Loan Bank, and grants and low-interest loans from the Tennessee Housing Development Authority, the Homeowner Rehabilitation Program of the Northeast Tennessee/Virginia Home Consortium, the Manufactured Housing Replacement Program and the SBA.
In addition to Appalachia Service ProjectandtheHolstonConference of the United Methodist Church, volunteer organizations providing labor for the recovery effort include Samaritan’s Purse of Boone, N.C., the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Agency and the Holston Baptist Association.
Eldridge said the volunteer labor the nonprofit groups provide will allow the flood victims to use the $20,000 Federal Home Loan Bank grants and other grants and low-interest loans to purchase materials. “What we’ve got to do now is to raise money to supplement that $20,000 because, for most of these families, it’s just not going to be enough. That’s why it’s so important that we ramp up our giving to this (United Way) fund that we designated from the start to supplement those grants.”
United Way President and CEO Lester Lattany said, “A lot of families have been displaced and we encourage people to give as much as they can to help with the fund and help get them back in their homes as quickly as we can.”
Donations to the United Way of Washington County earmarked for the Disaster Recovery Fund may by made online at www.unitâ€‰ edwayofwashingtoncountytn.orgâ€‰ , or by mail to United Way of Washington County, P.O. Box 4039, Johnson City, TN 37602-4039.
Flood victims may register for financial and volunteer assistance through Oct. 15 by contacting the SBA at 800-877-2955 or online at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.