Sevier County Recovery

Thursday, December 01, 2016 | 11:55am

FEDERAL DISASTER ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE

How to Appeal a FEMA Decision

Some Gatlinburg wildfire survivors who registered for federal disaster assistance may have received a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that says they are ineligible. However, the reason for the decision may be something that can be easily fixed, such as providing insurance documents or new contact information.

Applicants can appeal any FEMA decision.

The first step is to look at the specific reason the letter was sent. If it isn’t clear, or more information is needed, a specialist at the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 (voice, 711, video relay service) can help. TTY users can call 800-462-7585. The toll-free lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Information is also available online at DisasterAssistance.gov.

Appeals must be made in writing and sent by mail or fax to FEMA within 60 days of receiving the letter.

Mail appeals to:

FEMA
National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055

Appeals and documents can be faxed to 800-827-8112.

Information on how and where to file an appeal is included with the letters and in the "Help After a Disaster" booklet, which can be downloaded at FEMA.gov/help-after-disaster.

Effective appeal letters should follow these procedures:

  • In the first paragraph, list the applicant's full legal name used on the aid application, along with Social Security number and the FEMA case number. Include a personal phone number as well as a back-up phone number where the applicant also can be reached, in addition to a correct mailing address.
  • Write an explanation of events that provides evidence to support the appeal. Summarize changes in circumstances or needs, additional damage to property discovered after the registration was filed or higher-than-anticipated costs for repairs.
  • Include photocopies of receipts for materials and labor as well as up to three written bids for repair work if those costs exceed the award amount. Submitting repair estimates, receipts, statements or invoices is recommended.
  • Keep a copy of the appeal letter and supporting documentation as a record.

SBA Low-Interest Loan Program

Gatlinburg small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private nonprofit organizations have until September 15, 2017 to apply for Economic Injury  Disaster Loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.  Economic Injury Disaster Loans help eligible entities 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.

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.

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/.

Crisis Counseling
(Sources: FEMA and Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services)

For disaster survivors who find themselves fatigued, short-tempered, suffering from depression, loss of appetite, hopelessness or sleeplessness, the state and FEMA have partnered to offer free crisis counseling services through May 15, 2017. Crisis counseling is available through the Tennessee Recovery Project at 865-255-6716. Survivors who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use TTY can access the counseling program at the same number. For a list of resources, disaster survivors can also call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 or the Mobile Crisis Unit at 865-539-2409.

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 continues to provide free testing of home wells and similar water sources for some Gatlinburg-area residents who have been directly impacted by the drought and wildfires. 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.

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/.

Governor Haslam |Tennessee Emergency Management Agency