Sevier County designated disaster area for federal aid

News release from Tennessee Emergency Management Agency

Nashville, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced this evening (Thursday) Sevier County will receive federal aid assistance through a Presidential Disaster Declaration as the county begins its recovery from the devastating wildfires of Nov. 28, 2016.

“This deadly wildfire required a coordinated response from many individuals and organizations,” Haslam said. “The outpouring of care, relief, and support from around the world for Sevier County and its people has been extraordinary.  This assistance from the federal government will help relieve some of the financial burden of this disaster on Tennesseans and Sevier County.”

In his federal disaster assistance request of President Obama on Dec. 9, 2016, Gov. Haslam also asked for the disaster declaration to include four counties – Coffee, McMinn, Polk, and Sequatchie – hit with severe weather and tornadoes on Nov. 29, 2016.

FEMA’s disaster declaration this evening indicated the awarding of any additional aid types or inclusion of other jurisdictions will be contingent on further joint preliminary damage assessments.

Through the Presidential Disaster Declaration, designated as FEMA-4293-DR, Sevier County is eligible for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual Assistance and Public Assistance programs.

The Individual Assistance program provides financial help or direct services to disaster survivors who have eligible expenses and serious needs, if they cannot meet those needs through other means.  More information on FEMA’s Individual Assistance program is at:  https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance.

FEMA’s Public Assistance program will allow Sevier County government entities and certain private non-profits to apply for reimbursement of specific, eligible expenses for debris removal and emergency protective measures.  More information on FEMA’s Public Assistance program is at: https://www.fema.gov/public-assistance-local-state-tribal-and-non-profit.

On Nov. 28, wildfires rapidly spread through Sevier County, causing mandatory evacuations of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The wildfires caused 14 fatalities and damaged or destroyed more than 2,400 structures in Sevier County.  Storms and tornadoes on Nov. 29, 2016, caused two fatalities, and damaged or destroyed numerous structures throughout southeast Tennessee.

News release from the White House

The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of Tennessee and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by wildfires during the period of November 28 to December 9, 2016.

The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Sevier County.

Assistance 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.

Federal funding also is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in Sevier County.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named W. Michael Moore as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.

FEMA said that damage surveys are continuing, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed.

FEMA said that residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

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