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Apr. 27—Just over two weeks after Governor Andy Beshear requested a major disaster declaration from the federal government, President Joe Biden approved the request Friday and ordered federal assistance to support Kentucky communities and individuals to help them recover from some of the worst flooding in Kentucky's history.
But Pulaski County missed the cut — at least initially.
"I think it is still open," Judge-Executive Steve Kelley said Monday, though he acknowledged that some counties suffered more extensive damage.
County Emergency Management/911 Director Aaron Ross told the Commonwealth Journal that he has contacted state emergency management officials to try to determine the county's status but had understood prior to Friday's announcement that Pulaski County had met the damage threshold required for assistance.
FEMA conducted joint damage assessments and subsequently awarded individuals and households assistance for more than 2,300 impacted homes in the counties of Breathitt, Clay, Estill, Floyd, Johnson, Lee, Magoffin, Martin and Powell. The federal Disaster Declaration includes activation of the individuals and households Assistance Program for these impacted counties.
The government began taking applications for assistance on Saturday.
It's the largest award for displaced individuals from damages to homes since a massive flooding event impacted the state in May 2010, when more than 4,200 structures were affected. For this declaration, counties have reported more than 1,200 instances of damage to infrastructure, debris removal and emergency measures costing more than $72 million.
It also follows an initial declaration granted for historic winter storms that immobilized much of Kentucky in mid-February.
"So many families and communities were hurt by this historic flooding, and we thank President Biden for working so quickly to grant this relief," Gov. Beshear said. "I visited just weeks ago to see the damage first-hand, and the needs are great. This was some of the worst flooding the state has seen in my lifetime, and it is our job to make sure we help the affected people and businesses get back to their lives and livelihoods."
From February 26 to March 1, Kentucky experienced some of the greatest one-day and three-day winter rainfall totals in history, exceeding seven inches in several southcentral and southeastern Kentucky counties. Flooding occurred on the Green, Kentucky, Licking, Ohio, Rolling Fork and Mississippi rivers. State roads in 21 counties closed due to flooding, mudslides and pavement breaks through March 14.
The governor issued a state of emergency order on February 28 with 49 counties and 31 cities also declared states of emergency. The Governor activated the Kentucky National Guard to assist with evacuations and partner with state agencies to deliver 45,000 gallons of water and more than 53,000 meals to Kentuckians in need.
"We're very appreciative of the major disaster declaration from President Biden for the recent severe flooding event," Michael Dossett, director of Kentucky Emergency Management, stated. "We look forward to working with our FEMA Region IV partners in moving quickly to authorize payments for individual assistance to our many citizens who were displaced due to damages from the record flooding."
In addition to the counties eligible for private assistance, this federal Disaster Declaration includes Public Assistance for the counties of Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Casey, Cumberland, Elliott, Floyd, Franklin, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Lawrence, Lee, Lincoln, Magoffin, Marion, Martin, Mason, Morgan, Ohio, Pike, Powell, Rockcastle and Wolf counties.
Hazard mitigation assistance is also available for the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky to help prevent future damage from natural disasters.
Gov. Beshear is expected to submit an additional request for more county designations that were not included in this declaration pending further damage assessments — a measure supported by 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers and his colleague Andy Barr (KY-06).
Shortly after the announcement from the Biden administration, the U.S. representatives issued their own release advocating for the inclusion of several counties in each of their districts that also suffered damage.
"I'd like to thank President Biden for granting this disaster declaration, because many across southern and eastern Kentucky need resources to rebuild as soon as possible," Congressman Rogers stated. "Since these floods tore through many of our communities, FEMA has been working around the clock to assess all of the flooding damage, and unfortunately, there is more work to do. Congressman Barr and I are working to ensure every impacted county is assessed for potential federal assistance, and we will send a formal request for expanded assessments in the coming days.
"We saw the damage to homes, businesses and county facilities first-hand, so we can personally attest to the urgent need for federal aid to help our neighbors through this long-term recovery and rebuilding process. That's why members of our staffs have been working with Governor Beshear's team to ensure every need is accounted for," Rogers concluded.
For more information about federal major disaster declarations, visit FEMA.gov.