Sevier County Recovery

Thursday, December 01, 2016 | 11:55am

FEDERAL DISASTER ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE

FEMA Individual Assistance Information

On December 15, 2016, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster assistance will be available to the state of Tennessee to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by wildfires from the period of November 28 to December 9, 2016.

With a federal disaster declaration in place, Sevier County individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the wildfires during the period of November 28 to December 9 can apply for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

Disaster assistance applicants who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY should call 1-800-462-7585 directly. For those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

Applicants will be asked for the following information:

  • Name as it appears on Social Security card
  • Social Security number
  • Address of the damaged home or apartment
  • Description of the damage
  • Information about insurance coverage
  • A current contact telephone number
  • A mailing address
  • Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit of funds

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. The declaration also makes federal funding available to eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in Sevier County.

SBA Low-Interest Loan Program

As a result of the presidential disaster declaration on December 15, 2016, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will also assist businesses, homeowners and renters with federal disaster loans in several Tennessee counties affected by wildfires November 28 to December 9, 2016.

The SBA disaster assistance covers Sevier County, which is eligible for both Physical and Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA. Small businesses and most private nonprofit organizations in Blount, Cocke, Jefferson and Knox counties are eligible to apply only for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Businesses and private nonprofit organizations of any size may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets.  Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20 percent of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA, for mitigation purposes.  Eligible mitigation improvements may now include a safe room or storm shelter to help protect property and occupants from future damage caused by a similar disaster.

For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations, the SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster.  Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage.

Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate.  Homeowners and renters are eligible up to $40,000 to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed personal property.

Interest rates are as low as 3.125 percent for businesses  and 2.5 percent for nonprofit organizations 1.5 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years.  Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via the SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

To be considered for all forms of disaster assistance, applicants should register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or download the FEMA mobile app.  If online or mobile access is unavailable, applicants should call the FEMA toll-free helpline at 800-621-3362. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services should call 800-621-3362.

Additional details on the locations of Disaster Recovery Centers and the loan application process can be obtained by calling the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an e-mail to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov

The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is February 12, 2017.  The deadline to return economic injury applications is September 15, 2017.

MOUNTAINTOUGH.ORG AND 2-1-1

The Sevier County Economic Development Council, in conjunction with Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, have launched www.mountaintough.org, a one-stop shop online for information related to the wildfires in Sevier County.

County officials have also collaborated with the United Way of Greater Knoxville to transition all Sevier County wildfire recovery-related calls to East Tennessee 2-1-1, a non-emergency telephone number that provides free, confidential, multilingual information and referral services to connect Tennessee residents in need with a full range of community services.  Local residents can dial 2-1-1 toll free, and concerned citizens outside the local area can dial 865-215-4211. The call center will operate Monday through Friday between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. EST. 2-1-1 serves as the first point of access to all community services, including shelter and housing, food, substance abuse prevention/treatment, health facilities, mental health services, senior issues, financial assistance, legal assistance, child care, child and elder abuse services, disaster relief, crisis intervention and volunteer opportunities.

The www.mountaintough.org website and 2-1-1 can provide information on the following:

  • Non-profit organizations accepting monetary donations
  • How to contribute and schedule a drop-off of in-kind donations such as food, clothing, toys and school supplies, including an updated list of items being accepted and not-accepted
  • How to volunteer to assist in recovery efforts
  • Current updates and press releases, including an updated video of Gatlinburg and the area as it recovers and a link to GIS (Geographic information System) mapping of the fire damage

STATE SERVICES

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), in coordination with departments of Tennessee State Government, has compiled the following information to assist businesses and residents in Sevier County as they work to rebuild their lives following the devastating wildfires. *Please note: This page will be updated as more information becomes available. For updates on the situation in Sevier County, please visit http://www.tnema.org/.

Driver's License Services
(Source: Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security)

Tennessee citizens impacted by the devastating wildfires can apply for a duplicate driver's license at the Sevier County Driver Services Center, 1220 Graduate Drive, Sevierville. The center is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  If you have any questions regarding license issuance, you may contact the customer service center at 866-849-3548 or www.tn.gov/safety

Employment Assistance
(Source: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development)

Employees:

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has the following location available to assist dislocated workers in Sevier County:

American Job Center
1216 Graduate Drive, Sevierville
Monday–Friday, 8:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Dislocated workers can visit one of these locations to ask questions about unemployment benefits and receive assistance applying for benefits.  Dislocated workers can also go online and apply for unemployment insurance benefits on their own by visiting  www.Jobs4TN.gov

Employers:

To make the processing claims as efficient as possible, it is critical employers file a MASS LAYOFF LIST at http://www.tn.gov/workforce/article/disaster-unemployment-assistance.  This list will enable the department to bypass usual investigations into claims and approve claims in the fastest possible time frame. 

Hiring Contractors
(Source: Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance) 

To protect yourself, only hire licensed contractors. Visit verify.tn.gov to ensure that a contractor is properly licensed to work in the state of Tennessee. Different types of work or work with a higher cost may require different licensure.

Before you hire a contractor:

  • Make sure the contractor is properly licensed. Write down the license number and verify that it is legitimate by visiting verify.tn.gov.
  • Get several bids. It’s best to get at least three bids and check references.
  • Get a written contract that includes the company’s name, address, and telephone number. The contract should also include an anticipated start and completion date.
  • Never pay more than one-third down and do not let the payments get ahead of the work.
  • Make sure the contractor is insured to cover workers’ compensation, damage and general liability insurance.

When hiring a contractor, avoid:

  • A person going door-to-door selling their services.
  • A person who offers services for a short time only, which makes consumers feel rushed and unable to research the contractor.
  • Unmarked trucks or vans, or a refusal or reluctance to set out complete and specific contract terms in writing.
  • Being pressured to pay for more than half of the cost upfront.

To file a complaint about a contractor with the Board for Licensing Contractors, visit http://tn.gov/commerce/article/cont-file-a-complaint or call 800-544-7693. 

Health Information
(Source: Tennessee Department of Health)

  • Those involved in search, recovery and clean-up efforts associated with the wildfire response should be aware of increased risk of infection from cuts and scrapes. The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) is now offering free tetanus vaccinations to help those involved in these efforts. Visit http://tn.gov/health/topic/localdepartments to find your local health department. Tetanus is caused by bacteria found in soil, dust and animal waste and enters the human body through a cut or puncture wound.  Because it causes muscle spasms usually starting in the jaw, many people refer to it as “lockjaw.”  Approximately 10 percent of people infected with tetanus die each year.
  • The TDH also encourages all involved in moving debris from wildfires and tornados to wear protective gear. Depending on the work performed, this may include heavy gloves, eye protection, N95 dust masks, hearing protection, hard hats and other wearables.
  • The TDH is now providing free testing of home wells and similar water sources for some Gatlinburg-area residents who have been directly impacted by the drought and wildfires.Testing will occur in phases to accommodate most urgent needs first.Phase one will be for those persons returning to homes in the next few weeks that have a functioning well.Phase two will be for those whose homes and property suffered more severe damage, with structures requiring more extensive repair/restoration before they can be habitable. Information about testing eligibility may be obtained by calling the TDH toll-free at 866-327-9105 or by sending an email to ep.response@tn.gov.

Housing Assistance
(Source: Tennessee Housing Development Agency)

The Tennessee Housing Development Agency encourages landlords in areas impacted to update rental listings on TNHousingSearch.org and to offer short leases for those who have been displaced by the disaster. TNHousingSearch.org, THDA’s rental housing resource website, helps renters find housing and provides a venue for property owners/managers to list housing. The service is free for both landlords and potential tenants. Property owners and managers are invited to call 1-877-428-8844 or visit TNHousingSearch.org for assistance.

Insurance Help
(Source: Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance)

If your home has been damaged or destroyed by fire:

  • Call your insurance company or agent with your policy number and other relevant information as soon as possible. Cooperate fully with the insurance company, and ask what documents, forms and data you will need.
  • Take photographs/video of the damage. Make an inventory of the items that have been lost.
  • Make the repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property (i.e., cover broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls). Do not have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs.
  • Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs covered by your insurance policy.
  • If your home is damaged to the extent that you cannot live there, ask your insurance company if you have coverage for additional living expenses incurred while repairs are being made. Save all receipts to document these costs.  

If you have a dispute with your insurer about the amount or terms of the claim settlement, you can contact TDCI for assistance. Click here to visit TDCI's website or call 615-741-2218 or 800-342-4029.

Missing Persons
(Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has established a hotline to coordinate reports of missing persons in the areas affected by the recent wildfires in East Tennessee. Those wishing to report missing individuals believed to be in the affected areas of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Wears Valley may contact 1-800-TBI-FIND. Callers should be prepared to relay as much identifying information as possible, including names, phone numbers, vehicle identification, and last known whereabouts. Recognizing the importance of accounting for individuals who may be missing, the TBI urges the public to refrain from calling to inquire about the status of personal properties in the affected areas. The information gathered by the TBI will be immediately available to law enforcement authorities in the response area for further follow-up.

Tax Relief and Extension Information
(Source: Tennessee Department of Revenue)

  • Some tax relief may be available to you if your home was impacted by the wildfires in Sevier County.  Tennesseans who live in any federally declared natural disaster area and receive disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may request a refund of sales tax paid on certain items to replace damaged or destroyed ones in their primary residence. The maximum refund available to any one residence is $2,500. Items that qualify for the sales tax refund include major appliances, furniture and building supplies used to restore, repair or rebuild your home. For more information about qualifying items and how to submit your claim for a sales tax refund, please visit http://tn.gov/revenue/article/sales-tax-relief-for-sevier-county-residents.
  • Businesses impacted by the wildfires may request an extension of time to file tax returns. The Department of Revenue will consider, on a case-by-case basis, extension requests from taxpayers who are unable to file tax returns, as required by law, because of the impact of natural disasters. Businesses in need of this assistance should contact the Department of Revenue at 615-253-0600 or through our Revenue Help application at https://revenue.support.tn.gov/hc/en-us.

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*Please note: This page will be updated as more information becomes available. For updates on the situation in Sevier County, please visit http://www.tnema.org/.