Aid is coming

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 11:45pm

The moment arrived last week when even Tennessee’s most ardent foes of big government welcomed help from Washington.

“Tennesseans have come through a harrowing weekend,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who signed a letter from Tennessee’s congressional delegation supporting Gov. Phil Bredesen’s request to President Obama for disaster assistance, which was granted to several counties — including Davidson — last week.

Bredesen made the request official at Nashville news conference after surveying the flood damage by helicopter. He asked the president to declare disasters in 52 Tennessee counties.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, who joined the governor on the flight, called it a “multibillion-dollar disaster” in Nashville alone and a “terrifying” sight from the air, with floodwaters swamping the Grand Ole Opry, LP Field and other icons of Music City USA.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate was personally on hand to show the president’s support.

“Having been to a lot of disasters doesn’t take the sting out of seeing another community that’s suffered losses both in life and homes and property,” he said. “We’re here to support. We’re part of the team. We’ll be working expeditiously on your request.”

According to FEMA, here’s the help Tennessee’s flood victims can expect from the federal government:

Temporary housing: Money is available for rent, or a government-provided housing unit could be made available when rental properties aren’t.

Repair: Money is available to homeowners to repair damage from the disaster that is not covered by insurance. The goal is to make the damaged home safe, sanitary and functional.

Replacement: Money is available to help rebuild homes destroyed in the disaster that aren’t covered by insurance.

Other Needs: Money is available for expenses and serious needs caused by the disaster. These include medical, dental, funeral, personal property, transportation, moving and storage.

In addition, Fugate said businesses could be eligible for low-interest federal loans to cover damages. Assistance also could be available for cities and counties to remove debris and rebuild infrastructure.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander offered this advice: “The best thing to do is to document your losses so that when … the president approves [a disaster declaration] that those losses can be proven and that help can come more quickly.”

FEMA said residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance immediately by registering online at or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362). The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (CST) seven days a week until further notice.