The following are highlights from the past week of the Tennessee General Assembly.
Capitol Hill Week overshadowed by destruction from devastating storms
Last week’s action on Capitol Hill was overshadowed by Tennessee’s “state of emergency” due to severe storms, tornadoes and flooding that resulted in one of the worst natural disasters in the state’s history. There have been 21 confirmed fatalities in the weekend storms.
Prayers for those devastated by the storms were also lifted in the chamber of the State Senate on Thursday. Senators commended state and local emergency personnel who performed above the call of duty during the disaster. They also stopped to express appreciation for the heroic efforts of citizens who participated in the rescue and stopped to remember those who must rebuild in the aftermath of the storms.
The Coast Guard rescued 250 people, while the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) helped 351 persons to safety from the flood waters. Twenty-eight shelters opened their doors to assist those who needed a place to stay due to evacuations or destruction of their homes. The American Red Cross and other charitable organizations are working with federal and state partners in the relief effort.
In addition, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) has activated the Tennessee Emergency Donations Hotline to accept contributions to support state flood victims. Volunteers will be answering calls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CDT daily at the toll free number (866) 586-4483.
Federal officials are working with state and local emergency responders throughout the region. Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) staff and resources have been dispatched to assess the damage and assist with the recovery.
Last Monday, Governor Bredesen asked President Obama to declare 52 counties federal disaster areas. The President had declared 21 counties as disaster areas by Thursday. The state expects more counties to be added over the next several days.
That designation enables local governments and individuals to access the critical federal grants and/or loans needed to help them recover from the damages sustained due to the high winds and floods.
The aid also helps citizens and local and state governments with costs for damage to roads, bridges, emergency protective measures and debris removal. In addition, an expedited declaration has been requested that provides federal reimbursement for 100 percent of all eligible costs for 72 hours from the declaration.
Businesses located in a declared disaster area and that have incurred damage during the disaster may apply for funds to help repair or replace damaged property to its pre-disaster condition. The Small Business Administration makes physical disaster loans of up to $2 million to qualified businesses.
Physical Disaster Loans are for permanent rebuilding and replacement of uninsured or underinsured disaster-damaged property. SBA’s physical disaster loans are available to businesses of all sizes and private, non-profit organizations. Businesses can learn more about these funds and apply by visiting the Web site https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/ or by calling (800) 659-2955.
Additionally, there are federal funds available through the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program for workers who have lost work as a direct result of the storms and flooding. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development facilitates this program for the Federal Government, and those individuals eligible should call the Tennessee Unemployment Insurance Claims Center at (877) 813-0950 extension 7599.
Individuals are encouraged to call their county Emergency Management Agencies (EMAs) to report their damages so the agency can make the appropriate assessments. Citizens should contact FEMA by either Internet at www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800 621- FEMA (3362) to make application for grants or loan approval for loss of personal property if they do not have insurance.
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