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Carter, Unicoi among Northeast Tennessee counties to qualify for federal disaster relief.

John Thompson • Apr 18, 2019 at 6:42 PM

NASHVILLE — A total of 56 of Tennessee’s 95 counties were included in a Federal Major Disaster Declaration that will make federal recovery assistance available to repair damage from flooding and severe storms during the period of Feb. 19 to March 30. The declaration included most counties in Northeast Tennessee except for Washington and Sullivan.

Gov. Bill Lee made the announcement on Wednesday: “The devastating flooding and severe weather required a comprehensive response and stretched many local jurisdictions to their resource limits,” Lee said. “For the counties working to rebuild bridges, roads, utilities and other infrastructure, this federal assistance will support their recovery efforts.”

The counties from Northeast Tennessee that will receive federal aid include Johnson, Carter, Unicoi, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Cocke, Sevier, Hawkins and Jefferson.

“This will certainly be a big help to our county,” Billy Harrell, Carter County Emergency Management Agency deputy director, said. “We have over a $1 million in damage to our county roads.”

Harrell said the Carter County Commission voted on Monday night to authorize Highway Superintendent Roger Colbaugh to spend local funds to repair the damage, so the federal declaration is appreciated.

Harrell said that based on past years, the federal funding will pay for 75 percent of the damage to county and utility district infrastructure. The remaining 25 percent comes from state and local funding, Harrell said. In the past, he said the state provided 12.5 percent of the cost, leaving counties to pay the remaining 12.5 percent to the cost of repairs and replacements.

Harrell said he has not heard about federal assistance for private property damage. He said only two homes in Carter County qualified as sustaining major damage. “A lot of homes had water damage, but not major damage as defined by the federal government,” Harrell said.

With so many counties in Tennessee’s First Congressional District included in the federal disaster list, Rep. Phil Roe expressed his appreciation: “I am very pleased the Trump Administration acted swiftly and approved Governor Lee’s request to repair the damage from the storms and flooding that occurred last month. In the First District alone we saw several instances of severe road damage from flooding and landslides, and tragically we also saw the loss of life. I’m grateful to the first responders and emergency crews that have worked to repair and restore this critical infrastructure, and I am grateful to President Trump for his assistance in helping our state to rebuild.”

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