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Kingsport flood damage not bad enough for federal grants

Staff Report • Jul 25, 2013 at 11:20 PM

KINGSPORT — Sullivan County and Kingsport did not suffer enough damage during last week’s flash flooding event to be eligible for federal grant money, but may meet the threshold for Small Business Administration loans, state and local emergency management officials said on Thursday.

Ever since last week’s sudden rainstorm dropped nearly four inches of water on downtown Kingsport and some outlying areas, affected businesses, chamber of commerce officials and emergency management personnel have been working to assess the damage and investigate the possibility of receiving federal disaster funds.

By the latest count, at least 241 locations in Kingsport and Sullivan County suffered damage in last week’s storm with about 67 in the downtown area alone.

Jim Bean, Sullivan County EMA director, held an informational meeting Thursday morning to give an update on the assessment process, the available funding options and what the next step in the relief process is going to be. About 20 people attended Thursday’s meeting, including business owners, chamber officials, a Downtown Kingsport Association representative and Alderman Tom Parham.

Bean said EMA and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency officials have gone out in teams to local businesses and homeowners to assess the damage, with the next step being to forward the information through the state to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will make a final determination.

A FEMA representative is expected to be in town today to tour some of the businesses affected by the recent flooding, to double-check the assessments done by the local officials and make a recommendation.

Bean advised those in attendance Thursday morning that not all properties would be shown to the FEMA officials, that the areas destroyed or suffering from major damage would be shown first, then areas that sustained minor damage.

The two funding options considered for flood relief have been federal grants and loans. According to Bean, Sullivan County will not meet the threshold for the grant money.

To be eligible for grant funds, Tennessee had to suffer $8.6 million in damage and Sullivan County had to suffer $541,000 in damage — during one event. Since most of the damage took place in Sullivan County, Bean said the county essentially had to bear the burden of hitting both criteria.

The DKA estimates downtown’s top 12 businesses lost an estimated $210,000 in cleanup and other damage from the flood.

The second option for flood relief could be in the form of long-term, low interest loans from the SBA, Bean said. The threshold is 25 businesses or homes identified with at least 40 percent uninsured damage.

Normally, a business’ inventory would not be allowed to be included in determining uninsured loss, but Bill Worth, East Region Director of TEMA, said FEMA may take inventory loss into consideration.

If Sullivan County meets the threshold and FEMA approves the loan process, Bean said that it would be up to the individual property owner to apply for a loan and that the loans would not be done as a group.

Bean said a person with as little as 10 percent uninsured damage would be eligible to apply for an SBA loan.

Worth said a final determination on the SBA loans would likely take place in a couple of weeks.

The public can still donate to the flood relief effort by going to www.downtownkingsport.org. Checks should be made payable to Downtown Kingsport Association, which is located on Broad Street. A telethon held Tuesday by WKPT-TV raised about $30,000 for flood relief.

In addition, downtown businesses are planning an after-the-flood sale on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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