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County to get nearly $400K FEMA aid refund

Members of Johnson County’s Budget Committee discuss details of new budget amendments and related monies during a recent meeting. Photo by Meg Dickens.

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Officials in Johnson County took one of the last steps in a two-year journey that cost the area a substantial bit of money. County Mayor Mike Taylor signed a contract with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) on February 17. Now the county will receive a 100 percent refund for the funds spent on necessary road repairs, equaling $393,000, after extreme weather demolished roads.

The damages stretched further than Johnson County. In February of 2019, approximately 60 percent of Tennessee counties qualified for FEMA aid because of “historic flooding.” Flooding, landslides, and tornadoes affected eastern and southern parts of the United States. Parts of Tennessee reported record-breaking rainfall, and Hawkins County reported a fatality caused by a flood-triggered landslide. The state averages about 4.1 inches of rain per month. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, Mountain City received 7.68 inches in February 2019, which is nearly double the average.

Former President Trump approved a Tennessee storm disaster declaration that April, and three more counties were added in May. Out of the 59 counties included, more than 33 percent were in East Tennessee. Johnson County was part of that original declaration. Locally, the funds mainly went towards fixing roads damaged by flooding or subsequent mudslides. Taylor commented that the county is “just waiting on a check.”

“It was a long process,” Taylor told the Budget Committee. “We stayed the course, and you guys have been really great.”

Taylor explained that the county hopes to be reimbursed again, this time for the work done to prepare the current COVID-19 vaccination site across from
Star LED. Officials found out the week prior that another round of FEMA reimbursements is going out. Taylor told the Budget Committee that he “hoped to get that money back,” equaling approximately $30,000, but the process takes two to three years on average.

One claim is beginning as another one ends. There is no news on whether Johnson County will be part of the next round of reimbursements yet. More likely
than not, it will be another long process spanning a few years.