The Center Square
President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that federal disaster relief funds would be available to Tennessee residents, declaring a major disaster after flooding in Humphreys County left at least 21 residents dead.
Federal disaster funds can include “grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” the White House said.
“Federal funding is also available to State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures in Humphreys County,” the White House said. “Lastly, Federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee sought the disaster declaration Monday in a detailed request to the president.
“I appreciate the dedication and hard work of the local first responders and volunteers, many of whom are also flood victims, to protect lives in their community,” Gov. Bill Lee said. “Our state and federal emergency partners will continue to pursue options to provide more relief for Tennesseans as they begin the recovery process.”
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, which assessed the damage in Dickson, Hickman, Humphreys, and Houston counties along with FEMA as part of the declaration process, said “up to 15 inches of rain fell over a six-hour period on (Saturday) resulting in catastrophic and deadly flash flooding in Middle Tennessee. Flash flooding in Humphreys County alone inundated more than 700 homes.”
In his request for assistant, Lee noted seven significant weather events in Tennessee between August 2020 and May 2021 when the state did not request federal assistance.
“The State of Tennessee expended well over $7.5 million in managing response and recovery activities for larger events, refraining from seeking Stafford Act assistance,” Lee’s request said. “This figure is a conservative estimate, as most counties and cities do not have the staffing or resources to be able to perform simultaneous cost accounting on continuous response activities. These extraordinary state and local expenditures have reduced our capacity to recover from this current event.”
The request estimated more than 10,000 homes lost power because of the storms and many are expected to be without power for days or weeks. More than 202 residents have sought shelter at area shelters set up between TEMA and the American Red Cross.
Lee’s request also highlighted that the flooding affected some of the most “economically challenged” counties in the state. Humphreys County has a median household income of $45,667 with 13% below the poverty line.
Businesses were flooded in downtown Waverly while about 700 homes were inundated with flood water and 300 homes are “expected to suffer major to destroyed damage,” according to estimates in Lee’s letter. Two schools suffered major damage, and six others suffered moderate or minor damage, while 40-50 school buses were damaged and schools will be closed for the week.