Tennessean: Tennessee to get $200M in federal aid for flood relief

Funds will cover infrastructure, repair projects

Posted on July 28, 2010

WASHINGTON — More than $200 million in federal
aid will soon head to Tennessee to help
communities recover from May's devastating floods.

The House passed a $58.9 billion supplemental  
funding
bill on Tuesday for the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan that includes the flooding assistance.
The legislation now goes to the White House, where
President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.

The House vote was 308-114. Among the state's
nine House members, only Reps. Steve Cohen, D-
Memphis, and John Duncan, R-Knoxville, voted
against the legislation.

Approval of the flood aid is a victory for the
Tennessee congressional delegation, especially
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, who inserted the
provisions as a member of the Senate
Appropriations Committee. State officials also
credited the efforts of Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper of
Nashville.

The aid was one of a few non-military provisions to
survive a months-long political battle in which
House and Senate members from both parties
sought to use the must-pass war funding bill as a
 
vehicle
for funding other goals, such as preserving
teaching jobs.

The Tennessee flooding caused an estimated $2
billion in damages and took 24 lives.

Jeremy Heidt, spokesman for the Tennessee
Emergency Management Agency, said the
funds will
reimburse the state for infrastructure projects such
as road and bridge repairs. For now, the Federal
Emergency Management Agency has been
reimbursing only for work it considers an
emergency, such as debris removal.

TEMA, which distributes FEMA funds, already has
received 3,500 project requests from communitiesin the 49 counties declared disaster areas.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean's spokeswoman, Janel
Lacy, said the city expects the additional funds to be
distributed based on damage within each county.

"Exactly how we use the funds will be largely
dependent on how much we receive, but generally
they will be used to help repair and stabilize homes,
neighborhoods and
businesses impacted by the
flood," Lacy said.

Cheaper grant money

Michael Drescher, a spokesman for Gov. Phil
Bredesen, said one of the most significant
provisions of the bill would be to reduce from 25
percent to 10 percent the matching funds that local
communities must provide to get funds from FEMA
for flood-related projects.

The state has been splitting that 25 percent match
with local communities. Drescher said the governor
assumes the state will split the 10 percent matching
amount, requiring strapped local communities to
come up with only 5 percent of the cost.

Other aid planned

Other flood-assistance provisions in the legislation
include:

• $100 million in Community Development Block
Grant funds that could be used in a variety of ways,
such as helping businesses reopen and buying
damaged properties. This money will be shared with
Rhode Island, which also had severe flooding.

• $49 million in Economic Development
Administration funding through the Commerce
Department to allow communities to go beyond
restoring damaged property and finance projects to
boost their economies. Projects could include
relocating a water treatment plant or rebuilding a
community center.

• $72.5 million from the Department of Defense to
repair the Naval Support Activity Mid-South facility
in Millington, Tenn., where the Navy's personnel
records are managed and which serves as the
headquarters for recruiting.

Another critical component is $5.1 billion to
replenish the
finances of the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, which have been drawn down
by the numerous recent disasters.

Contact Bill Theobald at wtheobal@gannett.com.